A heavenly healer of diseases

Ghantakarna Puja or Ghetu Puja is a Sanatan Hindu festival observed in many rural areas of the sub-continent. It falls on the 29th solar Phalgun (the 11th month of Bengali calendar). It is also known as Ghetu Sankranti. In some places it is called Bhat Puja, Bhaita Puja or Bhati Puja.

Ghantakarna is described in the Shiva Purana and he relates to a well-known myth. He was a devotee of Vishnu and always worshipped Him. Once Vishnu came to him and asked him why he didn’t respect and worship Shiva inspite of knowing that He (Shiva) is His (Vishnu) other form. Then he (Ghantakarna) replied that he was a Vaishnava and so he could not worship Him (Shiva). Then Vishnu appeared to him in the form of Harihara (half Vishnu and half Shiva) and in many ways He tried to make him (Ghantakarna) understand that Vishnu and Shiva are the same. When he (Ghanta karna) went out of that place, the children teased him shouting, ‘Shiva, Shiva, Shiva.’ To avoid the sound he made big earrings with bell in them called Ghantakarna. After that when he went outside, he shook his head so that the bell would ring and the shouting of children could not be heard. So, the festival is related to the flower, Ghantakarna, Bhat, Bhaita or Bhati and it is also the main offering of the Puja.

I have a childhood experience of enjoying the festival in the South-west region of the rural Bengal where the young children arranged the Puja. They decorated winnowing fans with Ghetu flowers, Palte mandar flowers, tress, snail with cowdung in it etc. They went to a holy place under an old banyan tree or mangosa tree and put the winnowing fans on an altar. Then they sang walking round the tree as a part of prayer to Ghantakarna –
“If these Bhati flowers do not satisfy you, we’ll offer you the flowers of Palte mandar.
If the flowers of Palte mandar do not satisfy you, we’ll offer you—————————.”
On the third day or end of the festival, they offered lumps of earth instead of flowers and other offerings to him to be cured of diseases.

Nowadays, most of the urban Hindus do not know the name of Ghantakarna or the festival connected to him. But in many places of rural Bengal the young children still celebrate the festival of this god. I know that they have not lost their belief in this heavenly healer of diseases. Perhaps they still pray to Ghantakarna saying-
“Oh Ghantakarna! Healer of diseases, do thou preserve me from the fear of coetaneous affections”
Talker: Jewel Das, Khulna, Bangladesh

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