Crucification – A Painful Devotion, photo essay by Avishek Das
Gajan is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly in the Rural part of West Bengal. Gajan spans around a week, starting at the last week of Chaitra continuing till the end of the Bengali year.
The word Gajan is considered a combination of parts of two words – “Ga” is from the word gram meaning village and “jan” is from the word janasadharan meaning folk. In this sense Gajan is a festival of village folk. Some of the myth said Gajan means Gar+Jan = A Bengali Word which reveals the call of the sannyasi or Bhakta to their lord Shiva.Often in this festival Sannyasi or Bhakta are murmuring with the name of Lord Shiva on daily basis 108 times & together they cry with pain : Debadi Dev Mahadev, Hara Gauri, Joy Shiv. They often believe its such a powerful chant that keep them cool and help to overcome all the pain related to their painful process of devotion.
Hindus celebrate the festival mainly on the last two days of the month of Chaitra. This period is known as Chaitra Sankranti when Sun will enter Pisces sign. Chaitra Sankranti begins on 14th March of every year. People observe fast during this period devoting themselves to their God. Gajan is actually linked to persons who are related to agricultural community, directly or indirectly. They pray for the rains and better harvest. Lord Shiva is said to be closely related to this community.
This photo story is from a remote village in the district Hooghly, west Bengal, India. Gajan is celebrated here more than 100 years. Devotees make one month restricted life as a part of the process like sleep on the floor,veg diet single time a day and known as SANYASI (devotee).
On the day of Gajan devotee gather in the oldest temple of LORD SHIVA in the village at night. At 12 o clock night, they made an holy bath in the river Ganga. After returning from bath they start their worship to LORD SHIVA, but the no of devotees is more than 50+, so it is not possible to accommodate all of them inside of the temple, so they worship their LORD SHIVA from outside the temple. It takes near about 3 to 4 hour, so when they complete their worship then it is dawn, and the day of the GAJAN starts. In the morning, the first event was “BANPHORE”, that is a 5 mm iron rod penetrated through the devotee’s toung. The devotee bite the middle of the rod which penetrated through his toung. In this condition, all the devotees take part in a procession with the drum and other musical instrument and make around the village.
The second phase of programme is started at 8.30 am. Here the devotee’s activities are different. Cross made of wooden structure taken from the nearest pond and devotees being crucified with nail hammer with the structures. Water given continuously on their faces so that they can overcome the pain of crucification and blood can be stopped from their Body.
Next phase They are laying down on the nail-bed, in this condition they make round in the village and the programme is end at 12.00 pm. It ends with Charak Puja Participants of this festival is known as Sannyasi or Devotee. Persons of any gender can be a participant. The complete history of the festival is not known. The central theme of this festival is deriving satisfaction through non-sexual pain, devotion and sacrifice.
(by Avishek Das)