Thursday, April 9, 2009

Summer is approaching...

This is the last month of Bengali calendar, Chaitra. We are at the threshold of the summer season. Well the truth is we are already into it. Report shows persistent temperature rise in the country, and as a result we are having short lived winter, prolong and tiring summer and untimely rain and storms. Not long back there used to be occasional thunder storm and cyclone during this time bringing relief from heat and humidity; even I have seen it in my childhood days. We call this climatic phenomenon Kaalboishakhi. But from the past few years it has become a rare event. So now we are enduring a long and sticky summer season.

Like changes in climatic condition there are changes in cultural horizon also. Chaitra is the witness to a month long observation of some rituals, that in many cases spills over to the first month of the new year Baishakh. We call it Gaajan and mostly the people from lower rung of the society are the participants. This is a folk religious celebration where an aboriginal god is the central deity whose priest is also a member of the participating community though now a days the festival has been related to the Hindu god Shiva and a Brahmin is seen to take up the role of the priest. Likewise the festival has lost its splendor and ferocity of celebration in Kolkata and its suburbs. The original spirit can now only be found within some interior pockets of rural Bengal.

Social scientists and cultural historians have shown the celebration to be a fertility ritual for an agricultural community where people pray for good rain and fertility of their land in the wake of a dry summer season. It has been shown to be a celebration of marriage between the Sun God and the Earth. The Hindi speaking people from Bihar also worship the Sun God during Chaitra which they call "Chaiti Chhat". The purpose seems to be the same, that is to pray for fertility and good harvest.

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