Chhath A Non Resident Bihari's Narration

After the pomp and show of Diwali where celebration is the key and materialism rules the roost, comes the festival of Chhath in which the devotees connect with the Supreme Being through tough rituals, strong belief and solemnity. Th e festival and the vrat honours and remembers the natural forces which have been sustaining the human body, mind and the spirit since the dawn of civilisation. Th is is the only festival of the country in which prayers are off ered not only to the rising sun but also the setting sun. Th e symbolism is inherent – never forget one who is down and out.

Unlike other festivals, there may not be any structured myth or tale associated with Chhath as it evolved naturally over centuries. It is a festival of prayer and propitiation observed with extreme solemnity. Spirituality is inherent in the numerous observations rather than celebration. It is the inner self and its purification which is the core of the festival. People observing the vrat, fast without food and water for 36 hours. The idea is to purify their body and spirit in the process. Only after all the numerous rituals are complete is the person permitted to have his food which reinforces their belief in nature and its numerous bounties.

Thanksgiving and seeking the blessings from the forces of nature - Sun God, mother earth and the river (water) is the core of the festival. The people believe that the wish of a devotee who has followed all the prescribed rituals is always fulfilled.

Like other festivals, different devotees seek different meaning from the festival and have their own interpretation. For many, it is Chhathi Maiyya whom they honour, giving a feminine touch to the worship of sun God. But the basic premise that nature is all powerful and human beings a small part of this nature, is never lost. It also reminds of the days when human civilization was confined to the river banks and sustained itself only through the forces of nature.

Five elements of nature – earth, fire, sky, water and air – the five pillars of life. Chhat also is a symbolism of Hindu philosophy which says that a person is made of these five elements and then dissolves himself in those five elements after his life cycle comes to an end.

The strict discipline during the festival means that people go for a strict salt less vegetarian diet cooked in earthen vessels a day after Diwali. The devotees sleep on floor and wear unstiched clothes. In the evening, in the midst of the setting sun, holy water and milk is poured in the river or a water body (argya) and blessings of the God sought for the entire family. The devotees stand in knee deep water performing this ritual.

Interestingly, there is hardly any mythology behind the Chhat puja and there are no religious books which define how the puja has to be carried out. This has been traditionally carried over through the centuries by word of mouth and imitations, passing from one generation to the other without losing its essential meaning.

"A unique element of Chhath is its universality among all castes and communities among Hindus of Bihar and eastern UP. People living in those areas have taken this festival to wherever they live, in India or abroad."

The offerings to the gods makes it clear that twice in the year, at the time of harvesting season (chait and kartik) people thank their creator for providing them ample food. The offerings include, thekua made of wheat floor, all seasonal vegetables, gram, coconut, lemon, sugar cane and milk. The offerings are made in new baskets made of green bamboo.

Every activity and offering is natural, derived from the five elements of nature – earth, fire, sky, water and air – the five pillars of life. Chhat also is a symbolism of Hindu philosophy which says that a person is made of these five elements and then dissolves himself in those five elements after his life cycle comes to an end.

"A unique element of Chhath is its universality among all castes and communities among Hindus of Bihar and eastern UP. People living in those areas have taken this festival to wherever they live, in India or abroad."

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