Bala Chaturdashi is an occasion for Nepalese to observe a ritual remembering the deceased family members. As the name says, Bala Chaturdashi falls on Krishna Paksha Chaturdashi, the fourteenth day of the waning moon fortnight in the month Mangshir (Nov/Dec). It is also called sattbij chharne din, a day to offer seven varieties of grains–paddy, barley, sesame, wheat, gram, maize and finger millet
The bereaved family members who have lost their family in the past three years throng to Gaurighat and Sleshmantak Forest of Pashupatinath Temple to keep vigil and observe rituals for departed souls on the eve of Bala Chaturdashi. They chant Vedic mantras, sing devotional songs and dance.
At the daybreak of Bala Chaturdashi day, sometimes even before dawn, devotees take holy dips three times in the River Bagmati which is as sacred as the Ganges. Pay obeisance to Lord Shiva and traverse the route prescribed for that occasion i.e starting at the Pashupatinath Temple passing through Sleshmantak Forest and back to the temple, while constantly offering seven kinds of seeds along the path. This act of seed offerings is called sattbij chharne, and it supposedly garners fruits of merit for the deceased and secures them a better place in heaven. The ritual is also carried out to pacify the restless spirits who were not cremated under various circumstances. And it takes several hours to complete the circumambulation.
The festival gets its name from the mythical trader Bala Nanda that lived long long ago. One day when Bala Nanda was eating while sitting near a funeral pyre at a cremation ground of Pashupatinath temple, the flesh of the burning corpse accidentally flew into his plate and without realization, he ate the flesh too. That eating of flesh turned him into a cannibal and he was called Balasura, Bala that has turned into an Asura (demon).
Balasura terrorized people who came to the funeral ground, making it impossible for mourners to perform last rites for their deceased family. He would take away dead bodies from mourners for eating.
Brisha Singh was then recruited to kill his friend Bala, who was now Balasura. After tricking Balasura to death in order to save the people from his terror, Brisha underwent severe emotional discomfort. With the thinking of making amends to his terrible act for his friend, he meditated to Lord Shiva for years. Shiva appeared and suggested that Brisha should chant Vedic mantra while offering seven holy grains at Sleshmantak forest for Balasura’s salvation. So he did, and the custom fo Bala Chaturdashi was carried on.
Feature Photo by Amit Machamasi