Trick or treat?
From classics like Scooby Doo and The Simpsons to newer fare like Stranger Things and Friends, Halloween episodes and flicks never fail to transport us to a make-believe supernatural world where our favorite characters are dressed up in their spookiest best!
The celebration of Halloween goes back to 2000 years as a pagan festival, during which the “thin wall” or the “gateway” between the spiritual realm and the living world was believed to have opened up. It was the day when the departed souls would come out on the streets and communicate with people. Which is why people would dress up in gory costumes and light bonfires to ward off the evil spirits. Moreover, they would distribute ‘soul cakes’ to the poor in return for their promise to pray for the family’s ancestors.
Over time, the significance of the festival has changed in an attempt to eliminate the ‘superstitious’ beliefs. Today, Halloween is about themed parties, candies and pumpkin decors when little kids and adults don their spooky costumes and go about door to door trick-or-treating.
Halloween in India – A desi twist
While one may argue about the fuss over a western festival, the celebration in India is more about a cultural extravaganza where religious context takes a backseat. It’s a whimsical excuse to host a costume party which involves dressing up, seeking treats and spending an evening storytelling and enjoying delicacies with friends.
The past couple of years have, in fact, seen an upward trend in the popularity of festivals cutting across religious lines. Due to increased craze and exposure to American movies, sitcoms and pop culture, festivals like New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and Halloween are slowly catching up and have started to make a place in the hearts of Indians.
Pro tip: For those seeking thrill and chills this Halloween, we have curated this list of the spookiest places in India you can visit! Would you dare? Book outstation rentals to these Halloween destinations and avail special discounts on Savaari cab booking app.
Indian Halloween Festivals
As the world preps for Halloween this October 31, here’s a look at a few Indian festivals which are eerily similar to Halloween – the ceremonies to appease the souls of our ancestors:
Predominantly a festival celebrated in West Bengal, Bhoot Chaturdashi is celebrated on the night before Kali Puja. Similar to Halloween, it is believed that the souls of the last 14 forefathers of each family visit their living relatives on this day. Instead of going trick or treating for candies, people consume 14 leafy green vegetables; and instead of the Jack o’Lanterns, 14 earthen lamps are lighted to ward off the evil spirits.
Performed on the day of Diwali, Badabadua Daka (the Odia Halloween) is a ritual to honour the forefathers of the family. People light sticks, also called the Kaunriya Kathi, and point them up to the sky, requesting their ancestors to descend in the dark, bless the living and depart in the light. Several pujas are offered on the 22 holy steps of Jagannath Temple.
[Also Read: Thimithi: The Fire-Walking Festival of India]
Another festival celebrated to commemorate the souls of the departed ancestors is Pitra Paksha, a 16-day ritual leading up to Mahalaya Amavasya. The family members perform Shraaddha where they offer food and water to their forefathers so as to ensure that they are looked after and fed well even in their afterlife as they ascend towards heaven.
Are you aware of any more such Indian Halloween festivals which are celebrated in the remembrance of our ancestors? Drop your answers in the comments.