There is a saying among the Bengalis which means that Bengalis have 13 festivals in 12 months. Apart from many well-known festivals that Bengalis typically celebrates, there are some which are getting lost with time. It is not uncommon that the younger generation, especially those of the urban side, are unaware of these small festivals like Itu Puja.
Itu Puja basically revolves around worshipping Surya dev or the Sun God. It is often said in the Hindu Mythology that worshipping Sun God lead to the fulfillment of all wishes and he bestows his devotees with prosperity, wealth, peace and health. Itu word came from the word Mitu- a shortened version of Mitra. This puja begins in the last day of the Bengali month of Kartik( which falls in November) and is observed every Sunday of the entire following month, Agrahan.
Puja Performed By Women
This Puja is performed by women, both married and unmarried. Once a lady starts doing Itu Puja, she continues to do it for life and then the next generation girl child of that household, i.e. the daughter or daughter-in-law carries forward this traditional puja for as long as they live.
How Is The Puja Performed?
In this puja, two pots, one filled with earth and one with water are kept and worshipped with other deities of the family. Fruits and sweets are offered in the morning to the house deities and one is required to hear Vrat Katha or the story regarding it. In rural areas of Bengal, on the Sunday’s of Kartik month, the mother and grandmother of the house may be seen sitting underneath the Tulsi Manch to conduct the puja. With a Lighted Diya( earthen lamp) and Puja pot filled with water and a coconut resting on top, she recites the story of Itu Puja.
The Story Of Itu Puja
The story is about a poor Brahmin who one day brings some rice at home and asks his wife to make rice pancakes (pithe). The wife made pancakes and gave two to her daughters, Umno and Jhumno. Brahmin becomes furious at this act and devises a wicked plan. He tricked his daughters to accompany him to go to his sister’s house. On the way, while passing through a jungle, the Brahmin leaves Umno and Jhumno and disappears. The two girls searched for their father the whole night. At morning, they saw few girls doing a Vrat at a Pondside. That was a Sunday of Kartik month. When the lost girls disclosed their problems, the girls doing vrat suggested doing Itu Puja with them to please Surya Dev. In doing so, Surya Dev became pleased and fulfilled their wishes and removed all sorrows from their life.
The practitioner of this puja eats vegetarian food without turmeric and oil on the puja day. At night rice pancakes and sweets made with molasses are served in dinner. At month end, the pot is immersed in the Ganges, or any other river or pond.
Itu Puja is basically done with the faith of having prosperity in the family and for having heirs to carry on the family name.
Featured Photo by E.Laurent