Started by the then Maharaja Krishna Manikya Bahadur in 1760, the festival is still celebrated by the masses; week-long celebration attracts hordes of devotees
Agartala: With the beginning of the centuries-old Kharchi Puja, thousands of people from across Tripura are thronging Chaturdash Devata Mandir (14 Gods temple) at Old Agartala, 8-km from capital city Agartala, to worship their gods and goddesses during the week-long festival.
The word ‘Kharchi’ is derived from two separate words -- ‘Khar’ meaning sin and ‘Chi’ meaning cleaning. Together, it means cleaning of sins done by people.
Kharchi Puja is performed at the Chaturdash Devata temple 15 days after Ambubachi. The rituals begin after the ‘Chantai’ (head priest) and his fellow priests take the 14 deities to a river, after which the bathing ceremony is performed in the holy water. The deities are then brought back to the temple, decorated with flowers and vermilion applied on their forehead.
The 14 gods are Shiva, Durga, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Vani or Saraswati, Kumar or Kartikeya, Ganapa or Ganesha, Brahma, Prithivi, Abdhi or Samudra, Ganga, Sikhi or Agni, Kamadeva and Himadri.
Talking with EastMojo, the head priest of Chaturdash Deveta temple said that Kharchi Puja was started back in 1760 AD by the then Maharaja Krishna Manikya Bahadur and since then the festival is being celebrated by the masses.
“Chaturdash Devata means 14 gods. Among them, three gods, namely, Mahadev, Durga and Narayan, are worshiped throughout the year. Other 11 gods are kept in the Andarmahal. They are worshiped along with the three gods only during those seven days of the festival,” he said.
“About 45 priests are engaged in the worshiping of the 14 gods and goddesses, while seven priests reside here throughout the year to worship the three gods in the temple. The idols are made up of gold and silver, 13 of them are of gold and the Mahadev in silver,” the head priest added.
Maran Debnath, an 80-year-old devotee from Ranir Bazar of West Tripura district, said he has been visiting the festival for the past 40 years. According to him, the number of devotees visiting here is increasing with every passing year.
“Earlier, the Kharchi Puja mela (fair) was held in a smaller way but the infrastructure here has developed to a large extent these days. The number of stalls set up in the mela has increased and the numbers of the people visiting here has also increased over the past few years,” Debnath said.
Ayayapan, a devotee from Tamil Nadu, told EastMojo that he is visiting the fair for the last 14 years with his family as he enjoys the environment here. “After Diwali, which takes place at Udaipur in Gomati district, Kharchi Puja is the second largest festival of the state that takes place in Old Agartala,” he added.
Ayayapan, who is visiting the temple with his wife and young daughter, said that he loves this temple very much. “I am serving with the state government for the past 14 years. Therefore, I have got the opportunity to visit the fair every year,” he said.
Thirty-seven-year-old Amit Debbarma, who runs a pera shop (sweets shop) in the vicinity, said that he is the third generation from his family involved in selling sweets in the past 50 years.
“We earn around Rs 500-700 per day. However, during festival, the demand is very high and we earn about Rs 3,000 to 5,000 by selling pera. The demand is so high that at times we even take supplies from Udaipur-based pera makers and over Rs 30 lakh is spent alone in making peras by all the shopkeepers here during the festival,” Debbarma said.
Mangal Debbarma (45) said that he has come from Mandwai in West Tripura district and has been visiting the festival since when he was a child. He loves this festival because people from all religions come together to celebrate the week-long festival.
Meanwhile, the Block Development Officer (BDO) of Old Agartala, Sudipta Biswas, said that altogether 870 private stalls have been set up here as against 846 last year.
In terms of security arrangements and people’s convenience, 33 CCTVs have been installed in and around the temple. In addition to that, 400 Tripura State Rifles (TSR) personnel have been deployed along with 150 scout boys and girls and civil defence and local volunteers are keeping a close vigil during the festival.