Violating all civilised norms and legal strictures, a group of Sanyasis took out a procession marching in special attires with exhumed dead bodies, special those of children.
The march was organised in full view in front of thousands of women and children in the Burdwan district on Friday morning. The police escorted the procession.
The incident happened in Kurmunh village just few kilometers away from the Burdwan district town. The people there were observing the Gajan festival, being in existence in Burdwan for over 250 years.
The Sanyasis and some villagers become semi nude and start preparation for this ritual seven days before the actual date of the ritual. They call themselves 'Samsan Sannyasis' as they start their preparation for the ritual from the cremation ground.
A Sanyasi, Bidhan told Hindustan Times "We start collecting the heads and bodies from different places during these seven days. We have our sources from whom we get the news of the recent deaths, which have occurred and the bodies that were buried. The entire operation happens during the night and we dig out the bodies and cut the head from the body by taking great risk. Many a times we face resistance from the family of the dead."
When asked about the next steps he said "We wrap the heads in plastic bags and hang them on the trees during the night. The place where the plastics are hung is kept secret. We assemble near a tree near the crematorium on the eve of the festival, undress and then put ash and different colours on our body so that we would look like lord Shiva. Then we start our puja with the heads because we believe that the heads will wake up with spiritual power inside us. We burn Myrrh (Dhuna) and put vermillion (sindoor) on the heads. We do this since we are the followers of the ancestral rule of the Gajan."
The next morning, sanyasis start the march with the heads and bodies in their hand. Thousands of people gather on both sides of the road to offer puja and offerings, informed Bidhan. "Now-a days we face crisis and do not get heads since people have become aware of Gajan and during this time of the year they guard the burial grounds in different villages well armed," he said. The Gajan festival is organised to satisfy and worship Lord Shiva.
Tapan Samanta, an educated youth from Bankura who had come to his relative's house was sitting in a tea stall with no interest in the Kurmunh bus stand. He said that he did not believe in this kind of a barbaric act still continuing in this century. He also expressed his grievance against the police and district administration for not taking any action to prevent the dance with bodies and heads in a fully literate district like Burdwan.
When HT contacted the District Magistrate of Burdwan, Manish Jain the DM told HT that he is unaware about the ritual and directed the Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) to give a detailed report about the matter. The SP Burdwan, Piyush Pandey was also astonished on hearing that his police force was escorting the rally. He said that he would look into the matter.
Every year the Gajan festival is observed in this manner and the district administration every year promises to take action. But still such a primitive and barbaric dance goes on year after year without a single action being taken by the administration.