#Festivals of India

What Is Bhoot Chaturdashi? The Legends of The Indian Halloween

what is bhoot chaturdashi
Halloween is a much hyped-up festival in the West, and growing up watching American sitcoms celebrate it so interestingly, it is possible you had FOMO, like me. But do not worry our own country has its own Halloween, called Bhoot Chaturdashi. Unfortunately, this festival, famous in West Bengal, hasn’t made a place in pop culture yet. However, if you speak to your Bong friends, they’ll tell you at least one ghost story they have heard during this time and have lit up a small lamp in the darkest corners of their home.

Ghost stories are something almost all of us have heard growing up, and it was one of the tricks used by our parents to keep our attention on something. And every region has their ghosts, and the names are always quintessentially colloquial and very common. The grandmother figure from ‘Thakumar Jhuli’ among Bengali kids has been a favourite. A friendly grandma came to our TV screens and narrated some legendary ghost stories of Bramhadaitya, Mecho bhoot, Shakchunni, Mamdo bhoot and so many more.

What is Bhoot Chaturdashi?

There are not one but a few legends attached to the day of Bhoot Chaturdashi. So, on the 14th day of Krishna Paksha, which is the second-last phase of the moon, a day before Amavasya or the no-moon day when Kali Puja/ Diwali is celebrated in West Bengal, it is the day of Bhoot Chaturdashi. It is also called Naraka Chaturdashi, which is related to the powerful demon called Narakasur, whom Goddess Kali had defeated. Now coming to the bhoot part of it, bhoot is the name for ghosts in Bengali. It is said that on the day of Bhoot Chaturdashi, these ghosts come to the human world and the line between dead and live gets blurred.

Folklore says a couple who were not very tidy, kept their garbage inside the house for days. So one day when a ghost appeared from inside the trash, which shocked everyone around. Since then, the couple and people in Bengal henceforth have tried to keep their house clean during this time to wane off the evil spirits. One could point out the similarities of the ritual of Diwali Ki Safai with this. Read our story on Diwali ki Safai here.

Now another legend says that on this day, it’s not necessarily evil spirits but the forefathers of the families who visit them. A common Bengali phrase, “choddo purush” or the 14 generation, is what people refer to as ancestors. So lighting up the dark corners of the house symbolises welcoming the forefathers to home. On this day, to keep peace at home and the good spirits happy, people also eat 14 different types of leafy vegetables.


Suggested Reading:

10 Things You Always Hear From Mom During Diwali Ki Safai


Bhoot Chaturdashi and Halloween

There isn’t a candy with trick-or-treat customs and dressing up as ghosts or pop culture figures in Bhoot Chaturdashi like it is for Halloween. The common factors between the festivals are the spirits visiting the humans, the retelling of spooky stories and the community celebration. Equivalent to jack-o-lanterns, we have diyas to light up and scare away the eerie spirits. 

At the end of the day, it is about celebrating together.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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