Kharchi Festival of Tripura
Tripura with its diverse culture and heritage adds to the number of festivals in the festival list of India. The tribal festivals in this state show the bond among brotherhood, the sacrifices given during wars and the wisdom gained from past experiences. One of the most famous festivals of Tripura is the Kharchi Puja which is also known as the ‘Festival of 14 Gods’. Kharchi is a good omen for the benevolent forces; a manifestation of ma’s eternal desire for happiness and prosperity.
Kharchi Festival Timings
Kharchi Puja is performed during the months July-August on the eight day of the new moon. It occurs during the month of ‘Ashad’ on the ‘Shukla Ashtami’ day. The fourteen Gods are worshipped by the Royal priest ‘Chantai’ who is not a ‘Brahmin’ but a Tribal origin. As per the 3000 years old tradition, only the Chantai descendants can take place of the Chantai. This festival customs are completely related to the authentic Tripuri traditions, however everyone else are always welcome to enjoy this celebration.
Significance of Kharchi
The meaning of Kharchi can be understood by splitting the word into two Tripuri words as “Khar” or Kharta meaning or sin and “Chi” or si meaning cleaning. Hence it signifies the cleansing of our sins. This festival occurs after 15 days of Ambu bachi or Ambu pechi . According to the Tripuri legend, Ambu pechi is the menstruation of Mother Goddess or Earth Mother. Hence on this day the soil is not ploughed, since as per the Tripuris the menstruation of a woman is unholy. If any priest’s wife is also having menstruation, then also they prohibit the priest from performing any rituals.
History of Kharchi
Legend says that there was a cruel King named Tripur who gave the name “Tripura” to his Kingdom. Having being exasperated with the atrocities of Tripur, his subjects prayed to Lord Shiva to bring them peace. Lord Shiva then descended and killed Tripur with his ‘Trishul’. After Tripur’s death, his wife queen Hirabati started rulling the kingdom. However the question raised that who will rule Tripura after Hirabati. The queen prayed to Lord Shiva for a descendant and she was blessed with a son named Trilochan. The name “Trilochan” was given to the prince since he was bearing three eyes. Trilochan was the king who first established the fourteen Gods and started the Kharchi Puja festival as a royal celebration of Tripura.
The Kharchi Puja deities do not have full body; they have only heads which are worshipped. ‘Haro’ or Mahadev is the first Karitkeya, Har, Samudra, Ganesh, Hari, Uma, Brahma, Agni, Prithibi, Ganga, Kamadev and Himadri are also there. Only the three Gods – Har, Uma and hari are worshipped daily.But on the auspicious occasion of ‘Shukla Astami’ all the Gods are worshipped.
Rituals of Kharchi
The Kharchi Puja is performed to clean the unholiness after the menstruation of Mother Earth to remove the sins completely from the land. Kharchi Puja lasts for seven days and it takes place at old Agartala in the fourteen Gods temple known as the ‘Chaturdasha Devata’ temple premises. On the day of the puja, the fourteen Gods are taken from the temple to the river Saidra by the Chantai members and given bathe with the holy river water, then carried back to the temple. The deities are decorated with various flowers in the temple and vermilion is put on their foreheads. Only the Chantai and the Royal family are allowed to be present during the puja ceremony. The complete puja rituals are kept as a Religious secret.
Beyond the Myth
As per Kailash Chandra Sinha's book, Rajmala, Trilochan's eldest son Drikpati was appointed as the heir of the Cachar kingdom by his maternal grandfather. While Drikpati became the king after the death of the king of Cachar, Trilochan enthroned his second son, Dakshin as the prince.
Accordingly, after the death of his father Dakshin occupied the ancestral throne. However, learning his father’s death, Drikpati, announced Dakshin to quit the throne. In response, Dakshin informed his elder brother that since their father, the king has chosen him as the heir so Drikpati now do not have any right on his father’s throne. On receiving the response, Drikpati declared war against his brother. Drikpati finally won after seven days of severe fighting and occupied the th throne
King Dakshin then set up a beautiful capital on the banks of the river Barabakra, hence expanding the state towards South. King Dakshin, as the proverb goes, took away the heads of fourteen soldiers with him while fleeing from Tribeg, the ancient capital of Tripura.
Hence from that time the descendants of Dakshin started worshipping the fourteen heads while the descendants of Drikpati worshipped the headless soldier bodies
On all days of the puja, Tripuris as well as non-Tripuris throng at
the temple for worshipping the deities. People offer sacrifices of
he-goats, buffaloes, ducks, pigeons and fouls also to please the Gods.
Sweets and fruits are also offered. There is a big fair organized at the
evening time for all seven days. Many cultural programmes also are
conducted during the fair along with kids joy rides, sugar candies,
toys, house hold items, kitchen utensils, snacks and many other
delicacies also attracts a huge crowd there. The Kharchi festival
solemnizes with the prayers for well-being of the land and its people,
specially for happiness, prosperity, bumper crops and safety from death