Tripura Sunday commenced its centuries-old ‘Kharchi Puja’ at the Chaturdash Debata Bari Temple near erstwhile capital ‘Purna Havelu’, with a set of restrictions and precautions set in place to contain the transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Speaking to reporters, Sajal Chakraborty, a chandipathak or Chandi-prayer priest at the temple, said devotees are allowed to visit the temple and offer prayers, while maintaining social distancing.
However, the temple which was usually thronged with thousands of devotees and visitors for seven days of Kharchi Mela, centering the Kharchi Puja, bore an estranged look as no god offerings or ‘bhog’ was allowed, no animal sacrifice was permitted and children below 10 years of age and those above 60 years were prohibited from visiting the temple during the Puja days.
“Kharchi Puja is observed to cleanse the Earth and pray for welfare of everyone. We have held the snan-yatra today and are holding the customary prayers. The Puja will go on for seven days as usual but the Kharchi mela has been cancelled this year and other restriction were also placed on devotees due to coronavirus pandemic. We shall pray to the gods to bless us all during this pandemic”, the priest said.
According to the legends, Kharchi Puja is observed to cleanse the earth by chanting mantras or hymns, drum beats and bathing 14 family deities of Tripura’s royal Mankya dynasty. These deities are Shiva, Durga, Vishnu, Laxmi, Saraswati, Kartik, Ganesha, Brahma, Abadhi or the water-god, Chandra (moon god), Ganga, Agni, Kamdev and Himadri or the Himalayas.
The ‘chanti’ or royal priest heads the procession of taking these deities for bathing. During usual festivities, 108 animals were sacrificed in honour of the deities. However, there were no animal sacrifices or ‘boli’ this year.
The festivities are funded and managed by the state government in accordance with the 1949 merger agreement between the then princely state of Tripura or Tipperah and the Union of India. The agreement also mandates the state government to manage and fund Puja rituals in 14 temples of Tripura including the 519 year old Tripurasundari Temple in Gomati district.
Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb wished people of the state on Kharchi Puja. “I wish the best to my beloved people of Tripura on the occasion of traditional Kharchi Puja. The Puja remains devoid of pomp and colour like everything else this year due to pandemic situation. We pray to the 14 gods so that we succeed to overcome this turbulent time”.
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