West Bengal is renowned for its various rites and rituals and is one such ritual among the many. Every year during April this event is executed on the occasion of Shitala Puja. The devotees, particularly women, go through this rigorously self-punishing task to offer their gratitude to the Goddess for keeping them guarded against ill health.
The Goddess is also believed to bless her devotees and help the newlywed women to conceive. Thus infants and children are often seen to accompany their mothers during the course of the ritual.
Kalighat is one such place in Kolkata where you get to witness this event every year. It begins with the devotees taking a dip in the Holy Ganges before taking a mile long walk to the temple of Goddess Shitala. En route, they lie flat face down on the burning hot streets and repeat this several times till they reach the temple premises. The local volunteers pour buckets of cold water on them to prevent the women and children from getting burnt by the hot asphalt.
The event culminates at the temple where the devotees perform a fire ritual by balancing burning clay pots on their heads and hands. It is undoubtedly one of the toughest rituals one can fathom.
I’d like to share some exhilarating and breathtaking moments for your visual understanding.
Photo Series by Ritesh Ghosh
Check out his full feature in June’17 Edition of Inspiro India Magazine issue#39 – Download Free.