During this period every home is lit with earthen lamps, candles, electric lights to ward off evil spirits from entering the household and also to appease the good ones. Bhoot Chaturdashi is kind of an Indian Halloween which is observed in every Bengali household on the 14th day of Andhakar Paksha or Krishna Paksha i.e. during the rising period of the moon, and it happens before the full moon night. It normally occurs on the 14th day or Chaturdashi as it is known commonly in the month of Aswin or Karthik.
Folklore and stories passed down from ancestors say that once upon a time there lived a Brahmin and his wife who were very lazy and kept the entire house untidy, with garbage filling up every nook and cranny of the house, unwashed utensils, and unwashed clothes as well, they never worshiped as well and performed any ritual. So one day when he got an invitation from the king’s palace to attend a ceremony, he set off towards the palace immediately and was treated to a heavenly platter of mouth watering delicacies.
Now while he was returning from the palace to his house, in the way he had to cross a small forest. Scared that dusk was descending fast into the night, and since the area had a bad reputation of being haunted, he hurried off across the path. A few minutes into the forest, he suddenly spotted a spectre clad in a white cloth with legs descending from the branch of a tree it was sitting to another small shrub beneath.
It called out to the Brahmin and told him that since he is returning to his house, he must inform the specter sibling sister, about its newborn child, which needs clothes to wear. The Brahmin was frightened and started running frantically towards his home. When he reached home, he almost dashed into the house and seeing him entering the house with an ashen expression, his wife inquired about the matter. As soon as the Brahmin was done narrating the story, another spectre dashed out of the garbage piled in one corner of the house and dashed out towards the forest. Hearing the screams of the distressed Brahmin and his wife neighbors rushed in and hearing the story reprimanded them for making the house a garbage dump and inviting ghosts and spirits which take shelter in the rubbish and corners infested with dirt and stench.
Since that day was Bhoot Chaturdashi, neighbours ordered them to clean the house, light 14 earthen lamps in every corner of the house to ward off evil spirits, sprinkle leftover water from washed stack of 14 leafy green vegetables, which are to be consumed at lunchtime and dinner. To this day, this custom is followed diligently in all Bengali households, when at the juncture of dusk and night residents light 14 diyas or oil lamps and place them at the corner of every room, terrace and staircase. This is done to shoo away evil spirits and prevent them from entering and taking shelter in the households. The houses are cleaned from the morning on this day, and as per ritual, water from the soaked leafy 14 vegetables are sprinkled all over the house. Then the vegetables are cooked and consumed both at lunch and dinner to complete the ritual. It is also believed that good spirits of ancestors descend from heaven on earth and hence the earthen lamps are also lit on the terrace to show them the path.
Bhoot Chaturdashi might not be as famous as Halloween or might not contain the rituals of trick o treat, yet it holds a very special place in the hearts of Bengalis and observed with great faith in the eastern fringes of India to this day.