During the later half of July a unique festival, called Kharchi Puja, is held at Old Agartala or urana Haveli in Tripura. The highlight of the festival is the bathing ritual of 14 deities in the
. The 14 deities include most of the important deities in the Hindu pantheon. Tribals and non-tribals participate in this unique event, which is originally a Tribal puja. The festival is held annually on the eighth lunar day of the light fortnight of the month of Asadha (July) in Bengali Calendar. Chaturdas Devata Temple
is around 8 km from Agartala, the capital of Tripura. Chaturdas Devata Temple
Numerous stories about the worship of the fourteen deities can be found in the Rajmala - the archives of the kings of Tripura.
The deities are originally tribal and were later adapted into the Hindu fold. All the deities have names in Kok-barok, the tribal language. The deities also have unique functions in tribal folklore like one deity is creator of universe, another god of death and another goddess of weaving.
The fourteen deities worshipped here are Lord Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswathi, Kartikeya, Ganesha, Earth, Ganga, Agni, Kama, Himavan (lord of mountains) and Varuna (god of ocean). The popular and local names of the Fourteen Gods are Hara, Uma, Hari, Ma, Vani, Kumara, Ganapa, Bidhi, Kha, Abdi,
Ganga, Sikhi, Kama and Himadri.
A unique feature is that only the heads of the idols are worshipped, an indication of the tribal influence. All the deities are made of bronze except that of Lord Shiva, which is made of silver. There is a half-moon symbol behind the head of the fourteen deities. The half-moon was the symbol of Tripura kings.
Interestingly, eleven of the deities are brought out only during the Kharchi Puja. Rest of the year they remain behind closed doors.
Kharchi Puja is a weeklong festival. The pujas and rituals are conducted by tribal priests and the main priest is called ‘Chantai.’ Like in other tribal pujas large number of goats and pigeons are sacrificed to appease the deities.