A Festival Dedicated to Nature

There is an environment-friendly
festival in India that is basically dedicated to the nature and its elements.

It’s all rituals and ingredients required for worship spanning over four days are connected to the nature with final offerings made to God Sun standing in water, preferably of the Ganges river, as it is believed that nothing in the nature will sustain on the earth without Sun and water. Offerings also comprise natural and seasonal fruits and vegetables including milk and self-made prasadam like thekua. It celebrates man’s dependence on nature.

When I was posted in Bihar, I came across the massive scale and graceful style of this festival. But when I came back to Mumbai, I was more surprised to see the same scale and fervour of the Puja here too. There was an overcrowding of people with seas of emotions at almost all the beaches, though some people have started performing rituals at home too.

I’m talking about Chhath Puja, the 4-day festival of public faith and reverence, which is celebrated on the sixth day of Kartik Shukla Paksha, and hence its name. Today (31st October, 2022) was the last day of this festival, dedicated to the Lord Sun, responsible for life, light and warmth.

Chhath is the biggest festival of the people of Bihar, Jharkhand, eastern UP and southern parts of Nepal. Gradually it has spread to other parts of the country and the world as well with their migration.

Chhath Puja is a festival of unquestioned belief and immense power. It’s a carnival of joy and love blended with devotion and holiness that brings families and friends together. It is the time when the family bonds, cultures and feels get rooted more than ever.

The rituals are rigorous, and observed over a period of 4 days mostly by married women. On the first day known as Nahay Khay, Vratis (devotees or fasting persons) have a satvik (sacred) meal only once, after taking a dip in the holy water.

The second day is called Kharna. After observing day long fast, Vratis take rice pudding made with jaggery in the evening after worship of sunset and offering the same to God Sun. Thereafter Nirjala (without a drop of water) fasting starts for the next 36 hours.

On the third day, shortly before sunset, Vratis go inside pond, river or seabeach, carrying Daura (bamboo basket) of Prasad (prasadam) for Sandhya Arghya (evening offering) to the setting Sun.

On the fourth or last day in the morning, they go for Usha Arghya (morning offering) again to the rising Sun in the morning. Then Vratis break their fast with fruit juice and the festival comes to an end with distribution of Prasad.

Chhath is a unique festival, where there is no idol, no temple, no priest, no scripture, and no mantra.  Devotees worship the God Sun directly without any intermediation.

There is no discrimination against any class of devotees during the festival. Rich and poor, Dalit and Brahmin, officer and peon, all can stand side by side in the same water while worshipping the God Sun, for whom all are equal.

When the sun’s rays descend on the Daura (basket) in the lap of the fasting woman, standing knee-deep in water, smearing vermilion from her nose to her forehead, it seems as if the God Sun Himself has come down to play in her lap as a child with the nature’s bounty.

Motherhood is the most gorgeous and  splendid form of a woman. This must have been the form of a woman in the mind of our forefathers, who called this earth the Mother Earth and our country “Bharat Mata” or “Mother India”. 

As per Indian culture, the rising sun is worshipped by offering water, except during Chhath festival, when the setting sun is also worshipped.
      
The setting sun represents history. Any civilization survives only when it honours its history, worships its warriors and remembers all the invasions and conspiracies made against it in the past.


The rising sun represents the future, and for any civilization to strive for success, it is necessary that it should beautify its future with faith, devotion and learnings from the past.

In the words of William Wordsworth, “Life is divided into three parts- which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future.”


–Kaushal Kishore

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43 Comments

  1. Thank you, Kaushal, for the detailed description of the Mahaparva;
    the festival of the festivals, celebrating the Sun and water, without which nothing could exist in Nature on earth. Chhath is the most Eco-friendly festival in the world lasting four days and filled with elaborate observances.
    I like your point that it is important to pass those traditions to the next generations.
    Thank you for the presentation that included you and your family.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Joanna, for summarising the post in your beautifully worded comment. I’m so glad that you liked the presentation that truly means a lot to me.

      Like

  2. Thank you very much ,sir , for your generous comment .Your fact and truth revealing piece of work ‘A festival dedicated to Nature ‘is heartfully worthy to be appreciated . The Sun in the Upanishad is called the ‘ Pratyaksha Devata ‘ . Really , one can suspect the existence of other gods ,but the Sun is the direct god connected to all things and beings . Cosidering this reality , the Rishis of the Vedas enunciate the Sun by saying ,SURYASYA ATMA JAGATAH TASTUTHASTHA that means the Sun is the soul of the entire world . Thank you ,sir ,once again for your beautiful writing .

    Liked by 1 person

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