Did you know about these Indian Halloween festivals?

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! But did you ever hear about Indian Halloween festivals?

Internationally, 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.

On Halloween, the “gateway” between the spiritual realm and the living world was believed to have opened up.

Indian Halloween Festivals with 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 the evening storytelling and enjoying delicacies with friends.

The past couple of years has, 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!

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:

1. Bhoot Chaturdashi

Bhoot Chaturdashi, a festival celebrated to honor forefathers by lighting 14 lamps

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.

[Also Read: Pretha Kalyanam – The Marriage of the Dead]

2. Badabadua Daka

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]

3. Mahalaya Amavasya

Indian Halloween Festivals - Mahalaya Amavasya
Glimpses of Mahalaya Amavasya at IshaYogaCenter | Image credit: Isha Foundation

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 Shraddha 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.

4. Shab-e-Barat

Shab e-Barat is another festival, mainly celebrated by the Muslim community. It is observed on the 14th night of Sha’aban, and people offer prayers to the lord while he writes their destiny. Also known as the Night of Records or the Night of Fortune and Forgiveness, it is believed that the Lord writes people’s destinies based on their deeds. As a part of the celebrations, people visit the graves of their loved ones and pray for them.

5. Ghinahu Brahm Mela

Every year around Durga Puja, Natwar village in the Rohtas district hosts a weeklong ghost festival known colloquially as the “Ghinahu Brahm Mela.” It has been held for the past 30 years and draws people from all across the country who believe they have been cursed or possessed by evil spirits and believe exorcism is the only way out. Would you dare to attend this festival? Book outstation rentals to these Halloween destinations and avail special discounts on Savaari cab booking app.

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.

Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by Swati Deol

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Did you know about these Indian Halloween festivals?
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Did you know about these Indian Halloween festivals?
As the world preps for Halloween on October 31, here’s a look at few Indian festivals which are eerily similar to Halloween- the Indian Halloween Festivals.
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Shabari, a modern-day wanderer, seeks out the hidden stories within the world's serene landscapes and vibrant cultures. She views each person as a living, breathing tale, a unique signature in the grand narrative of existence. With an insatiable curiosity for local customs and traditions, Shabari explores the rich drapery of humanity wherever her journey leads. Her passion is to unravel the secrets of tranquil temples, scale majestic mountains, and share the ancient wisdom they hold. Join Shabari on her quest for solace amidst the world's quiet corners and let her writing transport you to the heart of these captivating adventures.

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