Chhath Puja is Adishakti Sun’s worship festival. The earliest hymns in the Vedic texts are the hymns of worship of these powers. The ancient region of Magadh has been a bastion of Brahmanism and hypocrisy. The entire region has been marked as the site of resistance to social rigidities and discrimination in the Vedic religion and is thus the origin of the natural festival of Surya Puja with the name of Shashti (Chhath) Vrat. “Maga” priests (whose name is derived from the word Magadh) of Aryan (present-day Iran) were called to help.
Whenever there were restrictions for women and marginalized sections of society, people developed new ways of worship without detaching themselves from the original roots. Against the declaration of the sanctity of the Ganges and other sacred rivers by the pundits, they even chose beaches, ponds, puddles, other sources of waterlogging constructed by their own labor. They built Surya Mandirs at several places on the banks of the rivers, which amply testify to the artistic glory.
Chhath Puja is the only festival among all Hindu worships which does not require a third person (i.e. the priest) between Bhakt and Bhagwan. It is not an idol worship party, but the worship 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 state borders and achieved a global identity.
Along with water, woman (Parvati) and the sun, purity has a special meaning in Chhath Vrat. All the 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 ability of the Sun to set in the world.
Chhath Puja is a purely folk celebration of togetherness and 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 rituals are required. It is celebrated with simplicity, cleanliness and participation. All parvaitis are equal and there are no restrictions from Varna (castes) on the banks of rivers, ponds, puddles. No one asks anyone’s class from those who give Ardhya. Chhath festival folk songs emphasize the importance of environment, biological balance and women’s identity in the family.
Humanization of Surya
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 in the evening of Karthik Shukla Paksha Shashti and the redness of the rising sun in the morning of Saptami bring different colors to the crores of fasting women and men. The Sun is special and thousands of people standing in the bodies of water with Ardhya in their hands wake up cheering the Sun upon seeing its redness.
In this festival, a woman brings her feelings to the Sun: “Anna, Dhan, Lakshmi, He Dinanath, Ahai Ke Del; Ek Putra He Dinanath Sagar Andhar”. (That is, food, wealth, prosperity have all been provided by you. If there is a shortage, it is a child). In other festivals, where there is male dominance; at Chhath Puja, women even pray for their daughters as Runki-Jhunki, which is characterized in the folk song “Runki Jhunki Beti Mangila, Padhal Panditawa Damad; Ye Chhati Maiya, Darshan Dihin Na Apan”.
In the songs sung on Chhath Vrat, Surya himself is a mother’s son and Moon is his sister. Surya’s mother and sister Moon wake him up – “Utho Babua Bhel Bhinsar, Ardh Kera Ber Bhel”. Even the sun is not less wicked, after having had 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 were explained about life and the world in a subtle way. Everything comes 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 also brings kindness, sympathy and affection to the masses.
If a person has made a wish or a wish and it is granted, some families perform an additional ritual of “Kosi Bharai” during the Chhath festival. In this, the role of sugar cane, called Kosi or Kusiyar in the western region, is considered important. Five candy canes 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, on which the Kalash is kept. Dhapani (cover). Diyas are placed around it and Gram, Arva rice, Thekua, rice laddoos etc. are attached to the sugar cane.
All this is decorated in the courtyard when Sandhya Ardhya returns. Women sing Kosi song and Sindoor is applied to married women. Devotees do Jagran all night. In the morning, all objects are decorated in the same way at the Ghat. After that, except for the cane and the Prasad, the remaining objects are submerged.
Chhath’s glory is immeasurable. It is believed that observing Chhath Vrat not only releases diseases but also increases wealth and prosperity. Seeing the importance of Chhath, people of other religions besides Hindus also started worshiping the natural god Surya.
The popular faith festival has been governed by the Chhath tradition and its strict legislation. But now the market, which specializes in exploiting every opportunity, has also diluted this festival. With the changing times, the market also began to market people’s faith, belief, sensitivity and joy. Now, sporadically, a sun idol is installed and superstitions, pandas, priests are used as tools, although they are not necessary for this festival. There is a contest to spoil the taste by parodying and merging Chhath songs set to female vocals. The flood of cassettes that arrives every year in the name of Chhath festival has expanded a huge profit market. Branded companies attract customers with their products. The politicization of Chhath Vrat has started in some parts of the country especially in Mumbai and Delhi and a vote bank is created by this. The good wishes of the world, state, society and family for which women worship the sun, their own faces began to fade due to rising inflation.
(The author is a technocrat and an academician)