Halloween in India: 4 Holidays That Recognize the Spirit World
What comes to mind when you think of Halloween? Trick-or-treating, candy, pumpkins, and costumes are probably at the front of your list if you’re from the United States. However, if you were from a different country, the same elements might not come to mind.
For example, if you lived in India, you might not celebrate Halloween at all. Instead, you would probably opt to celebrate a different holiday or festival that honors ghosts of ancestors or that banishes evil spirits from the earth.
Does India Celebrate Halloween?
Hold on to your broomsticks and witch’s hats (or maybe set them aside) because India does not celebrate Halloween. After all, Halloween is an American holiday with Celtic roots that hasn’t spread across the entire world just yet.
However, India does have numerous festivals that revolve around honoring the dead, summoning past ancestors to earth, and banishing evil spirits. None of these holidays are quite like Halloween, but they are unique traditions practiced by many throughout India.
Is your favorite part about Halloween the idea of ghosts and spirits being near? If so, you might be interested in learning more about how people in India celebrate their connections with loved ones who have passed on.
Narak Chaturdashi, also called Bhoot Chaturdashi, is usually celebrated in November in West Bengal. It’s the second day of a five-day festival called Deepavali or Diwali. The festival is held to ward off evil spirits.
During the celebrations, people eat 14 different types of leafy greens instead of Halloween candy. And, each family lights 14 lamps, instead of jack-o’-lanterns, to honor the 14 forefathers.
On the night of the celebration, it is believed that the past 14 forefathers of each family descend to earth and visit their living relatives. It’s a belief that’s very similar to the idea that the veil between life and death becomes very thin on Halloween night.
Bada Badua Daka
Bada Badua Daka is celebrated in Odisha on the day of Deepavali, also known as Diwali. It’s a celebration where people pay respect to their ancestors who have passed away. During the day-long ceremony, people light jute stems on fire in order to summon past ancestors to descend to earth from heaven in the hopes of gaining their blessings.
In addition, families draw Rangoli on the floors of their homes, which resemble sailboats with 12 chambers inside. In each of these chambers, the family places an offering, such as cotton, salt, and mustard, for their loved ones who have passed away.
Pitru Paksha is a 16-day period on the Hindu lunar calendar that usually takes place in September. During this time, people of the Hindu religion pray for the souls of their ancestors that have passed away, as well as leave out food and other offerings for them.
According to the Hindu religion, people that have died wander the realm between heaven and earth known as Pitru Lok. In this area souls remain restless and are still attached to the living world. The offerings made by loved ones during Pitru Paksha are meant to help the souls become unstuck and transition into heaven, or Brahmaloka.
Legend states that the festival began when a warrior named Karna died. While he was alive, all he donated was money. So when he died, he was served food made of silver and gold to feed his soul, which left him starving. He prayed to return to Earth to donate food and help him transition into the afterlife.
The Ghost Fair, also called bhooton ka mela, takes place every year in Malajpur, Madhya Pradesh, and lasts for about three weeks. During the festival, people that are ‘possessed” by evil spirits or devils are brought to the village to be exorcised of the evils.
The festival began over 400 years ago when it is said a man named Deoji Maharaj came to the village. Deoji possessed magical powers that allowed him to turn soil and stones into food, and which also allowed him to relieve people from being possessed by evil spirits. It takes place on the night of a full moon before the Magh month, typically between January to late February.
Today, priests of the village have created a temple in Deoji’s name. And many people come from all over the country to witness what they believe the be exorcisms. However, many people question the festival for its use of violence.
How to Celebrate Halloween in India
If you find yourself in India during the Halloween season, you might not be able to celebrate the holiday in the traditional sense. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate at all. There are a few things you can do to bring a little Halloween magic along with you.
Host a DIY Costume Contest
Did you forget to bring a costume with you? If so, that’s okay, and maybe even a good thing. You can host a DIY costume contest with family and see who can put together the best costume with the clothes you brought with you. You can even have different challenges, like the silliest costume, most original, or spookiest. Get creative and see what your family comes up with. Then, you can stay dressed up in your favorite costume for the rest of the night to bring some of the Halloween spirit indoors.
Bake and Decorate Festive Desserts
Get creative with your Halloween celebrations by baking and decorating some spooky treats. Make your favorite sugar cookies or a pumpkin cookie recipe if you really want to feel festive. Then, decorate your desserts with different colored frosting, sprinkles, and candies. See who can make the spookiest design. Then, you can all enjoy the sweet treats you’ve created.
Plan a Scary Movie Marathon
It wouldn’t be Halloween without a little something scary or spooky. Stay home Halloween night and plan a movie marathon filled with all of your Halloween favorites. Make a list of all the Halloween movies you want to watch, gather some of your favorite candy and a few blankets, and see how many you can get through in one night. You can even decorate your space with simple and spooky Halloween decorations, like orange lights or paper pumpkins to get the Halloween vibe just right.
Since people in India don’t celebrate Halloween, that means that you can’t go door to door trick-or-treating. However, you can bring trick-or-treating inside. Set up different candy bowls around your house and have your child go to each candy station to pick up a sweet treat. You can even turn this into a candy scavenger hunt by giving your child clues about where the next candy bowl is located.
Celebrating Halloween in India
If you want to celebrate Halloween in India, it might look a little different from what you’re used to since the country has different days where they connect to spirits and past loved ones. However, you can still celebrate when you get creative. If you find yourself in India during the Halloween season, opt for a stay-at-home Halloween instead. You can still dress up, eat your favorite candy, and bring a little bit of spooky fun indoors.
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