The Bold Voice of J&K

Chhath Mahaparva- a festival of nature

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Er Prabhat Kishore

Chhath Puja is the festival of adoration of Adishakti Sun. The early hymns of the Vedic texts are the hymns of worship of these powers. 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 and thus originated the natural festival of Surya Puja with 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 marginalized sections of the society, the people developed new methods of worship without detaching themselves from original roots. Against the declaration of the sanctity of the Ganges and other Holy rivers by the Pundits, they even chose beaches, ponds, puddles, other sources of water logging built by their own labour. They built Surya Mandirs at several places on the banks of rivers, which are ample testament of 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 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 the Indian culture. Later it crossed the boundaries of the states and attained worldwide identity. Along with water, woman (Parvaiti) and 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 of Varna (castes) on the banks of rivers, ponds, puddles. No one asks anyone’s class from those who give Ardhya. The folk songs of Chhath festival underscore the importance of environment, biological balance and identity of women in the family.
Humanization of Surya: Ved, Puran, Upnishad, Mahabharat and other religious scriptures describe 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 colors 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 her feelings to the Sun: “Anna, Dhan, Lakshmi, He Dinanath, AhaiKe Del; Ek Putra He DinanathSagarAndhar”. (i.e. Food, wealth, prosperity all have 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 characterized in the folk song “RunkiJhunkiBetiMangila, PadhalPanditawaDamad; Ye ChhatiMaiya, DarshanDihin Na Apan”.
In the songs sung on Chhath Vrat, 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, which are dedicated to the Sun, are given by him. Worshiping the Almighty Sun, brings kindness, sympathy and affection to the masses as well.
If a person has made vow or wish and it is fulfilled, then some families perform extra ritual of “Kosi Bharai” during the Chhath festival. In this, the role of sugarcane, which is called Kosi or Kusiyar in the western region, is considered important. Five sugarcane with leaves are erected in the form of a mandap. The five canes represent “PanchTatwa” (i.e. Bhumi, Vayu, Jal, Agni and Aakash). Either elephant or 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 gram, Arva rice, Thekua, rice laddoos etc. are tied in 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 the 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 the cane and Prasad, the remaining items are immersed.
The glory of Chhath is immeasurable. It is believed that observing ChhathVrat not only liberates from diseases, but also increases wealth and prosperity. Seeing the importance of Chhath, peoples of other faiths apart from Hindus have also started worshiping 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 specializes 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 Sun is being installed and superstitions, Pandas, Priests are being used as tools, although it is not needed in this festival. There is a competition to spoil the taste by parodying and fusion of Chhath songs settled in female vocals. The flood of cassettes coming every year in the name of Chhath festival has expanded a huge market of profits. Branded companies are attracting customers with their products. The politicization of ChhathVrat has started in some parts of the country, especially in Mumbai and Delhi and vote bank is being created by this. The good wishes of the world, state, society and family for which women worship the Sun, their own faces have started to wither due to rising inflation.
(The Author is a technocrat
and educationist).

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