Chhath Mahaparva: A festival of nature

Chhath Puja is the festival of adoration of the Adishakti Sun. The early hymns of the Vedic texts are the hymns of worship of these powers.
Chhath Mahaparva: A festival of nature

Er. Prabhat Kishore


Chhath Puja is the festival of adoration of the Adishakti Sun. The early hymns of the Vedic texts are the hymns of worship of these powers. The ancient Magadh region has been a stronghold of Brahmanism and hypocrisy. The entire region has been marked as the site of resistance to social rigidities and discrimination in Vedic religion, thus originating the natural festival of Surya Puja with the name Shashti (Chhath) Vrat. Some “Maga” priests (from whose name the word Magadh is derived) from Aryan (present-day Iran) were called on to assist.

Whenever there were restrictions for women and the marginalised sections of society, the people developed new methods of worship without detaching themselves from their original roots. Against the declaration of the sanctity of the Ganges and other holy rivers by the Pundits, they even chose beaches, ponds, puddles, and other sources of waterlogging built by their own labour. They built Surya mandirs at several places on the banks of rivers, which are ample testaments to artistic glory.

Chhath Puja is the only festival among all Hindu worships that does not require a third person (i.e., the priest) between Bhakt and Bhagwan. It is not a festival of idol worship but of adoration of the almighty natural God “Surya”, whom everyone sees and who is the survivor of life. With the migration of people, Chhath Vrat also reached other parts of Magadh and became an integral part of Indian culture. Later, it crossed the boundaries of the states and attained a worldwide identity.

Along with water, women (Parvaiti), and the sun, purity has a special significance in Chhath Vrat. All Vedic texts provide for the worship of the rising Bhuvan-Bhaskar, but the Chhath ritual is the only worship in which the first Ardhya is given to the setting sun while the second Ardhya is offered to the rising sun. This is a classic example of the capability of the sun setting in the world.

Chhath Puja is a celebration of solidarity and purely folk faith. The Ardhya ends with folk songs and locally grown fruits, flowers, and roots in the fields. Common fruits and flowers such as radish, tubers, succulents, sugarcane, turmeric, ginger, coconut, banana, etc., on which our life survives, are the materials of worship. No Vedic mantra, havan, or any other ritual is required. It is celebrated with complete simplicity, cleanliness, and participation. All parvaitis are equal, and there is no restriction on Varna (castes) on the banks of rivers, ponds, or puddles. No one asks anyone’s class from those who give Ardhya. The folk songs of the Chhath festival underscore the importance of the environment, biological balance and identity of women in the family.

Humanization of Surya

The Ved, Puran, Upnishad, Mahabharat, and other religious scriptures describe the glory of the sun. There is a tradition in Indian culture to offer water to the sun every day. On the occasion of Chhath Puja the setting sun on the evening of Karthik Shukla Paksha Shashti and the redness of the rising sun on the morning of Saptami bring different colours to crores of fasting women and men. The sun is special, and lakhs of people standing in the water bodies with Ardhya in their hands wake up cheering the sun on seeing its redness.

In this festival, women put their feelings to the sun: “Anna, Dhan, Lakshmi, He Dinanath, Ahai Ke Del; Ek Putra He Dinanath Sagar Andhar”. (i.e., food, wealth, and prosperity have all been provided by you.) If there is any shortage, that is a child. In other festivals, where there is male dominance, in Chhath Puja, women even pray for daughters as Runki-Jhunki, which is characterised in the folk song “Runki Jhunki Beti Mangila, Padhal Panditawa Damad; Ye Chhati Maiya, Darshan Dihin Na Apan”.

In the songs sung on ChhathVrat, Surya himself is the son of a mother, and Moon is his sister. Surya’s mother and the sister Moon wake him up: “Utho Babua Bhel Bhinsar, Ardh Kera Ber Bhel”. Even the sun is not less naughty; after getting the opportunity, he also pinches the woman: “Deve Ke Deliau Ge Abla, Garva Jani Bol, Garva Se Bolve Ge Abla, Uho Lebau Chhin”.

These Magahi folk songs have a deep meaning. People have been explained about life and the world in a subtle way. Everything is from the sun. He is the one who gives and takes away life. Fruits, flowers, intact, and all other things that are dedicated to the sun are given by him. Worshipping the Almighty Sun brings kindness, sympathy, and affection to the masses as well.

Kosi Bharai

If a person has made a vow or wish and it is fulfilled, then some families perform the extra ritual of “Kosi Bharai” during the Chhath festival. In this regard, the role of sugarcane, which is called Kosi or Kusiyar in the western region, is considered important. Five sugarcanes with leaves are erected in the form of a mandap. The five canes represent “Panch Tatwa” (i.e., Bhumi, Vayu, Jal, Agni, and Aakash). Either an elephant or a Jhilmiliya (a type of tub) made of clay is placed inside it, over which the Kalash is kept. Dhapani (lid). Diyas are placed around it, and gramme, Arva rice, thekua, rice laddoos, etc., are tied to the sugarcane.

All this is decorated in the courtyard after returning from Sandhya Ardhya. Women sing the song of Kosi, and Sindoor is applied to married women. Devotees do Jagran throughout the night. In the morning, all the items are decorated in the same way at the ghat. After this, except for the cane and Prasad, the remaining items are immersed.

The glory of Chhath is immeasurable. It is believed that observing Chhath Vrat not only liberates from diseases but also increases wealth and prosperity. Seeing the importance of Chhath, people of other faiths apart from Hindus have also started worshipping the natural god Surya.

The festival of folk faith has been governed by the Chhath tradition and its strict legislation. But now the market, which specialises in taking advantage of all the opportunities, has diluted this festival as well. With the changing times, the market has also started merchandising the people’s faith, belief, sensibility, and joy. Now, sporadically, an idol of the sun is being installed, and superstitions, pandas, and priests are being used as tools, although they are not needed in this festival. There is a competition to spoil the taste by parodying and fusing Chhath songs with female vocals. The flood of cassettes coming every year in the name of the Chhath festival has expanded a huge market for profits. Branded companies are attracting customers with their products. The politicisation of Chhath Vrat has started in some parts of the country, especially in Mumbai and Delhi, and a vote bank is being created by this. The good wishes of the world, state, society, and family for which women worship the sun and their own faces have started to wither due to rising inflation.

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