An Esoteric Wedding

Bengal is one of the few places where tantric traditions - dating back to pre-vedic era - survive and flourish. At the heart of these traditions lie a deep reverence for ephemeral gods like Shiva, fierce goddesses like Tara and Kali, and formless folk deities like Darmathakur. Shaivite tantrics, also called Bhaktas, Bhaktias or Gajan Sannyasis, celebrate Shiva Gajan on Chaitra Sankranti - the last day of the Bengali calendar year - to commemorate the marriage of Shiva with Harkali.

Shiva Gajan is esoteric in that the rituals are similar to those observed during a Hindu funeral ceremony. Further, the Gajan Sannyasis paint their bodies and run through villages making guttural noises and brandishing exhumed skulls and dead bodies. Crowds of lay people gather to watch the procession and to curry favour from Shiva.