At the local pond
Chhath Puja Committee members
Chhath Puja Committee
Panorama of the riverside
Panorama of the riverside
( November 2015, Ranchi)
Chhath. The festival that evokes myriad emotions amongst the people of the Eastern region of the country. Primarily a festival of Bihar, Jharkhand, Eastern UP and the plains of Nepal, it now celebrated across all parts of the world, even different parts of the world, courtesy the migration of people from the above areas to different parts of the nation and the globe.
The Sun is the bestower of strength , vitality and virility in Hindu mythology. Chhath is a festival that celebrates exactly this. The worship of the Sun God, Surya and Chhathi Maiya (ancient Vedic Goddess: Usha- wife of Sun God is the crux of this festival.
It is early morning, mid-November, and I am at one of the many water bodies in and around Ranchi,. The festival of Chhath has begun. The sight that awaits me is truly beautiful. Diyas( lamps) floating on water, hordes of people paying obeisance to the Sun God , standing in the water, carrying out rituals. Offerings of Prasad , flowers, and other holy items. The lead is taken by the women , dressed in their finery , who stand in the water, eyes closed, circulambulating while facing the Sun God. Entire families join in , each paying homage to the Sun God.
Chhath Puja involves the following rituals: holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water ( Vratta) , standing in water for long periods of time, and offering Prashad (prayer offerings) and Arghya (homage) to the setting and rising sun.These are observed fairly rigorously in these parts. Chhath has religious as well as historical connotations, for it is believed that Rama and Sita observed Chhath after their return to Ayaodhya from exile. Thus sanctified by Hindu mythology, Chhathremains an expression of inner purity and homage to Surya and Usha. It is usually the women of the household ( Vratins) who fast during Chhath and go through the entire ritual cycle, though other members of the household also join in.
On the banks of the nearby Jumaar river, I come across the members of a Chhath committee, and take their pictures. They pose eagerly, happy that their pictures would be published on Facebook. We sip warm tea and snacks, passed freely around.
At Chhath time, how can Thekua stay behind ? Made of jaggery ,rice and other items, this sweet is typical of this region and of Chhath. Passed around in copious quantities, it provides the sweet flavour to the festivities.
And then, long after the sun is up, having witnessed this beautiful festival , mind satiated, I head back home.