Window Seat: Chhatt

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | November 19, 2023 IST

Chhatt puja

Mrinal Chatterjee

In India, as in other parts of the world there are several festivals around water bodies- rivers, lakes, sea. Chatt (called so as it is celebrated six- chhe, in Hindi days after Diwali), celebrated across Bihar and wherever there are Biharis- is one.

Former bureaucrat and author Jawhar Sircar writes that “Chhatt is the first celebration of bright light and the sun, after the blackest night of the year, ie, Kartik amavasya when Indians light billions of lamps to dispel the dark.”

Chhatt Puja was originally a women’s festival to thank the sun god for all the munificence and the bounty conferred, but it is interesting to note how the menfolk joined later on. They also worship a goddess called Chhatti Maiya, who is equally important and invoked for her boons. She is sought to be identified with Usha, the Vedic goddess of dawn — but these are just weak attempts to sanskritise a popular utsav.          

The unique character of this festival is that it worships both dawn and dusk, the rising sun as well as setting sun. It is actually a four day festival that starts on the fourth lunar day after the dark amavasya of Kartik, namely, Chaturthi, Panchami, Shasthi or Chhatt and finally Saptami. Chhatt Puja is the occasion for the most colourful dresses to come out and there are a lot of folk songs and dancing as well. Even in distant Mauritius, for instance, Chhatt songs and dances are an integral part of the nation’s culture that was brought in by labourers from Bihar. As fasting is mandatory, people take anticipatory steps by consuming a lot of freshly reaped rice, puris, bananas, coconuts and grapefruits before beginning their rituals.

Chhat, like rajo in Odisha, was and remains essentially a very vibrant folk festival, that has no role for the priest and no compulsion to visit temples. There are, however, some stories around Chhat linking its origin to mythological stories. Draupadi was advised by the sage, Dhaumya to perform Chhatt puja to Suryadev, to help the Pandavas. There is another legend that Rama and Sita also offered this puja to the sun god during this period of the year when they returned from exile to Ayodhya.  Sita’s origins were in Janakpur of Mithila, which is really the epicentre of this worship. The tradition is, however, observed all over in Bihar-Jharkhand and adjoining regions, the Madhesh tract of Nepal, as well as in far off Fiji, West Indies and Mauritius: wherever Biharis went. 

Chhat initially was a folk festival. Brahmans usually stayed away from this economically unviable festival. Nowadays, however, hordes of priests have started occupying vantage points in the water and ritualized the otherwise simple festival.

What benefits does this puja confer? Many believe in it as a fertility rite for both humans and harvests, while others swear by its curative powers. There is also a theory that ancient yogis and rishis obtained energy directly from the sun’s rays by exposing their bodies to the sun, while on fast. When one observes how other events and pujas damage or destroy the environment with chemical paints and other poisonous substances, that include firecrackers, Chhatt stands out as a really commendable environment-friendly worship that uses only biodegradable items.

Slow death of a beautiful beach

Once upon a time Puri on the coast of Bay of Bengal had the most beautiful beaches in Eastern side of India. Stretching miles along the coast, the beach offered calm and serenity. One can walk along the beach with golden sand for miles.

No more.

On my recent visit to Puri sea beach, I found that before you reach the vast expanse of blue water of the sea, you see a sea of blue plastic ‘tarpolin’ roofed small shops selling knick knacks for the tourists. Vast stretch of the beach has been barricaded to make it ‘golden beach’. It has a ticketed entry. The other part has turned into a huge bazaar. The entire stretch has become dirty and uber-crowded. Camels, horses have been brought to the beach for tourists to ride on. Plastic chairs are there for hire to sit on. Scores of hawkers are there, each trying to draw attention to his fare by shouting.

I found a bored-looking camel, who was probably wondering over some existential questions like: ‘what am I doing here’ or ‘why am I here’.

Existential Crisis

An existential crisis may occur when a person frequently wonders whether or not life has any inherent meaning or purpose. A person may also question their own existence within a world that might seem meaningless.
 
 Experiencing an existential crisis is common, and it is normal and often healthy to question one’s life and goals. However, an existential crisis can contribute to a negative outlook, especially if a person cannot find a solution to their questions of meaning.
 
 Existential crises may be associated with a number of mental health conditions. For this reason, it is sometimes best to involve a doctor — especially if an existential crisis has the potential to lead to despair or suicidal ideation.

Tailpiece: Difference

If you think you are too small to make a difference......try sleeping with a mosquito in the room! 

Disclaimer:

This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with www.prameyanews.com.

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