AsiaStoryAt the peak of devotion by Soumyabrata Roy

“Shiver Gajan” or “Hajrha Puja” is a special folk festival, celebrated at Chaitra Sankranti (last day of the Bengali year) for bidding good-bye to the passing year in West Bengal, India.

“Shiver Gajan” or “Hajrha Puja” is a special folk festival, celebrated at Chaitra Sankranti (last day of the Bengali year) for bidding good-bye to the passing year in West Bengal, India.

It is believed that the celebration leads to prosperity in the coming year, wiping out all the sufferings and pains of the current year. Gajan is actually linked to persons who are related to agricultural community, directly or indirectly. Many years ago single-time cultivation was possible. So, they pray for the rains and better harvest. Lord Shiva is worshiped on the day of Gajan. Participants of this festival are known as “Sannyasi” (monk). The word Gajan in Bengali comes from the word “garjan” or roar that “Sannyasi”-s emit during the festivities.  In this context, though the festival is celebrated on the midnight, the preparations start at least a month in advance. The team involved in its arrangement goes from village to village and collects the necessary items, like paddy, oil, sugar, salt, honey, money etc. Around midnight, the devotees gather to offer prayers to the deity. Many devotees observe a fast on the day. The monks are wear dhoti (men’s garment) in special style; in Bengal it is called “Tiii”. The Gajan, a way to show the miracle of God, are unique and at times risky. There are many steps of Gajan and the ritual is ending through various social or political based dramas which are show different aspects or fault of the society. Here I tried to show the little parts of exclusive Gajan Festival. This type of Gajan only happens in Tehatta and it is almost on the way to extinction. Tehatta is transformed into a city, so the land of cultivation has been transformed into locality. So in this modern mechanical era, it is difficult for someone to believe in this hardship Gajan. The majority of those who have taken part here are working outside. Someone is a cobbler, someone potter, someone milk man or a fisherman etc. They have come back Tehatta for pure love and nostalgia. Like other religions in Hinduism is also Higher-Lower caste discrimination. But in Gajan anyone can participate. There was no record before it. I did not have the chance to see it in my childhood, because it is start from midnight. I am born and brought up in Tehatta. You can say it is a little try from my behalf to reach the matter to everyone. Nowadays, there is no one have time to looks each other face. We may lose a reason of joyful meet with our Neighbor.

At first monks are praying to Lord Shiva (According to Hindu mythology Shiva is known as “The Destroyer”. In Shaivism tradition, Shiva is the Supreme Being who creates, protects and transforms the universe) through fire flame.

Preparation for “Phul Khela” (Playing with burning coal). Here only can Jujube Fruits tree woods is burn.

The chief monk commits himself to please Lord Shiva and he started performing a different type of wacky dances.

Here chief monk is taking rest on the road after performing special kinds of wacky dance at midnight (1:48 AM).

Here chief monk is taking rest on the road after performing dance at midnight in Gajan festival. Many people came to see it, car’s light has fallen on them (2:21 AM).

The visitor, an owlet

The chief monk is taken to bathe at Jalangi River.

The Chief Monk is dive one time and trying to escape in deep water.

Associate monks are forcefully taken him on shoulder (2:31) AM) it’s called in Bengali “Hajrha Bhasan”.

Run on the way of destination and ensure chief monk’s protection.

Then they are chanting out loud in the name of Lord Shiva and started walking on burning coals in the indication of chief monk, in Bengal it is called “Phul Khela” (Playing with burning coal) at 2:53 AM.

Experienced eyes, Nara Ghosh is one of the oldest experienced Sannyasi (monk), he is the reason why this tradition remain now. Without his direction it is impossible.

“Dhak” (A large drum that men hang around their necks and play with two thin sticks, very popular in Bengal) is the main instrument for this festival, every things happens through redeem of the Dhak.

It is called in Bengali “Matha khatano”, they are like incarnation of Shiva. It means Head down and nod for god and symbol of lord Shiva is present among them. Here Monks are inhaled perfume smoke.

After those performance Monks are tired and take rest.

Again preparation for Puja (worship), this worship is called “Bij bona” (Seeds sown).

After satisfy the God through various activities paddy was brought to accomplish “Bij bona” (Seeds sown)

Difficulties of cultivation process through cows’ story. In the past, monks are used stick or rattan stick for self defense; it is still remained as symbolic.

Various kind of ancient methods of cultivating were show there through exercise.

Then carefully lift all grains for next year’s use, which means that the crop is successfully cut off.

Here was a comedy performance on street.

On that day, everyone who is old or young is almost same. They make fun of each other.

Here was a political story performance on street, where the fools barber trying to cut beard with grubber and an ax. The moral of it which razor can, grubber can’t.

A “Stories of a fool barber”, here a barber going to cut off his customer beard by grubber. These plays are usually shown in various types fault of society.

A polymorphous dressed like lord Shiva and Monks are dancing with him.

“Bagh Khela” (the game of tiger) is one of the prime & oldest genres. The topic of this game is tiger and his cub enters on the cultivate field in various times. For any reason the “Dhak” is playing they will enter. The whole ritual of Gajan ends through fake killing of the tiger dressed man or boy.)

About Soumyabrata Roy

Soumyabrata Roy is a Tehatta based self taught documentary and travel photographer. For him photography is like a meditation, which can frees you from distraction. He likes to take candid photos, because only there natural emotions connected with real events. Now he is studying Diploma in Photography from Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandira, Belur Math. His photo published in Canon-India, India biodiversity portal, Anandabazar Patrika (India),  Blipoint (Spain), Dodho Magazine, 121clicks, Don’t Take Pictures (USA) magazines. Photo story published in Chiiz Magazine. He is one of the finalists of EuropeAid-WOMEN-ENERGY photo contest and his photo has exhibited in European Development Days in Brussels organized by European Union. Apart from exhibited in exhibitions like University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON, Canada), “Khushnuma” (IIM Udaipur, Rajasthan, India), 2 times Belgrade Photo Month (Belgrade, Serbia) exhibition, Intriguing Illusions present‎ “Kaan Pete Roi”‎ (Drik Gallery, Bangladesh), Chania Photo Festival (Greece), Odesa// Batumi Photo Days “Se@ Experience” (Georgia), “My Travel Moment” (NCPA Piramal Art Gallery, Mumbai), Samsara Art Festival (Santiniketan Society of Visual Art & Design, West Bengal; India) and various places of India. His photos have been digital screening at Indian Photo Festival – Hyderabad (India) & Asia Photo Review (Los Angeles, USA). Shortlisted in “UNESCO Youth Eyes On the Silk Roads International Photography Contest 2018”, 2 times finalist WSIS Forum (UNESCO, UNCTAD, UNDP). He has qualified to participate in the “First-Ever Conference on Photo Tourism in India” (Gujarat) organized by Gujarat Tourism.

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