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Today is Tarpan

By Ranita Sinha, Kolkata

Today is Mahalaya, the day when Goddess Durga is invited to destroy evil and restore peace on earth. But, for the Bishnupriya Manipuri people this day has its own significance. On this day, the Bishnupriya Manipuri people offer Tarpan and Sikda. But since this year Amavasya continues over both Sunday and Monday, people will definitely choose a day as per their convenience for the offering.

The custom is not much known to me but as far as I remember, on this day, early morning my father, empty stomach, used to go to the river bank near Sree Sree Radha Madhav Sevashram, Maligaon, Guwahati for Tarpan. He used to carry a big brass dish (sengshengor kupang), Til (sesame seeds), Tulsi Patta (basil leaves), milk, flower and banana, a list of all the names of the deceased in our family and also a khuttei with him.

When once asked what Tarpan means, he replied that it means offering water to one's deceased parents and forefathers. That, on this day it is customary that the son should offer water to them since if it is offered on this day it gives contentment to the deceased.

He used to tell that, on that day from morning there were long queues of people for Tarpan in the bank of the river Brahmaputra. Every one would wait for their turn with all the ingredients in the brass dish after taking a dip in the river with bare body with only a wet khuttei (Bishnupriya Manipuri Lungi). When ones' turn would come the priest (Aiga), would chant the mantra and the offerings were done and once the offering was complete again one had to take a bath in the river. After that only the concerned person breaks his fast by taking Prasadam at the temple.

While my father used to go to the bank of the river for Tarpan, my mother used to go to the temple with the Sikda - offerings of rice, pulses, vegetables, spices, cooking oil, sweets, fruits etc. Since, I always used to accompany my mother I witnessed her putting the bag of Sikha in front of the deities and the Priest's wife (Etema) would ask my mother to utter our Goutra and after that she would chant some mantra and sprinkle some holy water over the bag, then my mother would carry the bag to the place where all the offerings were stored.

On that day there used to be streams of people in the Malthep (Mandir). In the morning, there were only ladies who would come with the Sikda, but as the day would pass the male folk would start to assemble after Tarpan. Then, once Aiga would arrive from the bank of the river, he would perform the Bhog Arati and thereafter all the devotees present were offered Prasadam.

As, life and death are the two realities of life and as the old is replaced by the new, so is my father no longer alive to offer water to his parents and forefathers but his son (my elder brother), replacing him and is offering the same to him and his forefathers. So also Aiga, who used to perform the ritual is no more and has been replaced by his son. And me, replacing my mother's part and going to the Mandir with the Sikda in memory of my deceased father-in-law, as I am no more a mere daughter but also a daughter-in-law.

Everything changes in life but it never stops moving forward. It has its own pace. So are customs, knowingly or unknowingly passed on to the next generation.

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  1. Great article. You make me nostalgic at times. My parents used to follow these rituals but I being somewhat indifferent and difficult kid, never paid attention to these details. Off course, I was always the first in line in a Bandara and after having
    my fill would hurriedly shunt back home.

    Now being away from home for so many years, I feel a void in my heart for not knowing my culture enough but thanks to you and
    the blog I am on track.


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