By Goutam Shankar Das
Chhat is indeed a very pious occasion for most Indians especially in Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Chhat is also observed in parts of Bengal and Mumbai.
But, through the years, I failed to gather why Chhat devotees sing odes to Chhat Maiya while the main deity to be worshipped is the Sun. After years of inquisitiveness beseeching me, it was my press brother Amod who told me that Chhat Mother was Sun’s sister and the devotional songs in Her worship were related to seeking the blessings of Sun God.
Bhavishya Puran, states that worship to the setting Sun and obeisance to the rising Sun ensures good health and happiness in the homes of the devotees. While preparing for the sunset and sunrise Arghyas (prayers), devotees maintain cleanliness and purity and special, pure vegetarian foods are prepared sans spices, onions, garlic and ginger. Bottle gourds are auspicious vegetables.
Devotees after partaking of a very religious food offering known as Kharna, stay on water-less fast till the offering of the early morning Arghya. Then these devotees sip some fruit juice and partake of the delicacies that have been offered to the Sun God. They distribute these holy offerings among family members and other visitors who go to the water banks to partake in the sights of devotional paraphernalia. Among all such delicacies are Thekuas that are most sought after.
These Thekuas are prepared with great devotion and contain suji (a wheat product), sugar, ghee or butter. In fact, this delicacy is the most sought after by people.
There are many information attributed to the observance of this holy festival. It is said that Lord Ram and his consort Sita worshipped Suryadev (Sun God) after the victory over Ceylon or Lanka king Ravana.
According to the Puran Lord Brahma divided Himself into two with His right side taking on a male form while His left projected nature. This part representing nature is known as Dev Sena. The sixth part of nature which is feminine is known as Sashti Ma Who is also known as Chhat Ma.
As stated in the epic Mahabharata, Karna, the son of Sun God, prayed to the Sun every day, being submerged in water. His prayers pleased Surya and he was endowed with supreme power. Karna’s prayers to SuryaDev are the precursor to the modern day observance of Chhat Puja. But the common factor is the essence of piety that devotees loose themselves in. The way they pray with nothing to disturb their concentration makes for a study in total absorption in the infinite.
A little more than two decades back, the late, internationally famed photographer, Bhudeb Bhakat led us photo enthusiasts to the river banks to watch and freeze moments during the Astgami Argh and Udayman Argh, that brought us wide recognition. We were also offered those delicious Thekuas by the devotees after completion of their morning rituals.
Now, when I turn over the albums from the past, memories flood me of those times. I too automatically get immersed in the devotion and the rituals of Chhat Puja. The devotion is binding and picturizing those moments through the lens is an unforgettable experience to be felt and shared.
Like Thekuas, these decades old pics are shared by me with all those who care to relive times of devotional festivities. I had some members of our ‘old world’ tribe today to reconnect with the holy documentation of Chhat Puja.