Bleeding red: Charak

Who can say what is the truth about man and God? Who can sanctify which path is right or wrong? All believers are promised something but is it only the allure of the promise that sustains faith?

Blood that courses through the veins are red. It is very symbolic – this color that sustains our lives is also the fuel of our faith. The faithful has always bled.

These photographs taken in a remote village, are my account of the gentleness of soul and the firmness of faith I have witnessed during Charak Puja. Where I expected fervored fanaticism and recklessness, I encountered humility and serene surrender. Devoid of the commercial spectacle, the devotees have carried on the four hundred year old religious ritual and worship with complete reverence and zeal.

The root of the word ‘Charak’ may have originated from ‘Charki’ (Circle). The faithful construct a framework that centers on the body of a tree. A make-shift wheel is setup on top of it. Devotees hook themselves with crude rope to the wheel by piercing the skin on their back and levitate round and round. Although the process is extremely painful, believers trust on divine intervention to keep them safe. Self-flagellation, multiple piercings, dramatic acts and ritual worship of Gods and Goddess are held throughout the day.

Then there is blood. It flows from scraps, tears and piercings the body goes through to prove the soul inside has the essence of a true believer. It is this red that is reflected in the color of the ‘gerua’ worne by the faithful.