Kharchi Puja: a Tripuri Festival About Cleansing the Impurity of Mother Earth's Menstruation

Kharchi Puja, a unique festival is a celebration of worshipping 14 deities, cleaning Mother Earth of her menstrual impurities and washing away the sins of the people of Tripura.

Hitanshu Bhatt
New Update
Kharchi Puja

In India, menstruation is often considered as a topic of debate. While some people have started normalizing conversations around it, many still consider it taboo. In some places women are considered goddesses and mensuration is considered a period for them to rest and refrain from any activities. However, there are parts of India that consider women impure during this cycle. To testify to the former statement, the state of Odisha celebrates it as the Raja Festival. The belief regarding the festival suggests that the earth is symbolised as a woman who undergoes a period of menstruation during this time and requires rest and a rejuvenating break from all activities. But to exemplify the latter statement a rather similar festival with a slightly different reason is celebrated in a state, a few kilometres north of Odisha. The land of Tripura immerses itself in the Kharchi Puja. Let’s unscramble the climax of the festival as it has a similar beginning as the Raja Festival but a slightly different end.

The Festival of Washing Away the Sins

festival of 14 gods
Image Courtesy: Asianet News Hindi

Khar' or Kharta means Sin, and 'chi' or si means cleaning. Stating a way to cleanse one's sins. The Kharchi Puja is performed after 15 days of Ama Pechi or Ambu Bachi. According to Tripuri legends, Ama Pechi is the menstruation of the mother goddess or Mother Earth. Since menstruation is considered an unholy phenomenon in the entire state of Tripura, performing every auspicious activity by women is prohibited during this festival. Even ploughing or digging of agricultural fields or harvesting is not done during these days as the land is considered impure. The restriction is to such an extent that any priest whose wife is menstruating is prohibited from performing any auspicious or religious function.

After the period of Ama Pechi, the Kharchi Puja is celebrated by the tribal people of this region. This Puja is performed to wash out the sins and clean up the post-menstrual uncleanliness of Mother Earth’s menstruation. This Puja is performed for 7 days straight in the Chaturdash Devta temple (housed in the ancient Ujjayanta Palace), the ancestral deity of the Tripuri people in old Agartala, the capital of Tripura.  

The Festival of 14 Gods 

Kharchi puja rituals
Worshipping of 14 deities (Image Courtesy: Tripuraindia)

The celebrations start with the recitation of sacred and religious hymns and mantras, invoking the blessings of the deities. The priests and devotees gather around the temple, creating an atmosphere of spiritual fervour.  An important ritual of the festival is the construction of the Chaturdasha Mandapa, which symbolises the royal palace of the Tripuri kings and is constructed by traditional artisans who craft the structure out of bamboo and thatched roofs.

kharchi puja celebrations
Kharchi Puja Celebrations (Image Courtesy: The Story Mug)

On the day of the puja, the 14 deities are carried by members of Chantal to river Saidra, bathed in the holy water and brought back to the temple. They are placed in the temple again, decorated with various flowers, and the priests put up the vermillion on the forehead of deities.

Apart from this, a huge fair is organized in the city where people participate in different activities. Folk dances and songs are performed by various artisans which are enjoyed by the public and the day culminates by distributing sweets of different varieties. 

Ama Pechi Festival of 14 Gods Festival of Washing Away the Sins Chaturdasha Mandapa Rituals of Kharchi Puja Chaturdash Devta temple