Hindus worship the Sun on Chhath worldwide

vignetteKATHMANDU: Life on Earth is impossible without the sun — the source of energy necessary for life on Earth. People from the Hindu community worship the sun respecting its role for protecting Earth and humankind. And Chhath is one festival that honours the Sun god. 

Celebrated especially in the Mithila community, people offer prayers to the rising and setting sun wishing for happiness, long life and prosperity in the family during Chhath. This year, the festival was observed from October 27 to 30.

Four-day celebration

Chhath is celebrated every year on the day of Kartik Shulka Shasti. But the celebration begins two days before Shasti. Females, especially the married ones with children, fast without drinking a single drop of water for the long life, good health, happiness and prosperity of their family.

The first day is called Naha Kha. On this day people take a dip in a holy river and bring holy water from the river to purify their homes. They clean their houses and surroundings. The fasting to please the Sun god also starts from the same day — the devotees eat only one meal.

The second day is observed as Kharna. The women take a holy bath and fast and make offerings to the Sun to please him. “The moon is also worshipped on the same evening for its contributions of giving the light on Earth during the night time. These women end their fast eating sweets, rice pudding and roti as a part of culture,” explained Anandi Devi Thakur, a resident of Thaiti, who has been observing the festival for the last 12 years. 

Sajiya Ghaat, the third day of the festival, is a special day for the devotees. On this day, women go to nearby water resources such as river or lake to worship the setting sun and offer arghya (mixture of milk, ghee and honey). Thekuwa — a biscuit made from rice and wheat flour — is offered to the sun. Kasar (round ball-shaped food item made from rice flour) is also prepared on this occasion.

“Something special needs to be prepared during this festival. But as other food items are prepared during different other rituals, these dishes are offered to the Sun god as something pure and new during Chhath,” added Thakur.

The festival ends on the fourth day giving arghya to the rising sun. Taking a holy dip in the river water and offering prayers to the Goddess Chhathiya Mai and the sun, the festival concludes.

Hindus also believe that the sun helps in curing many illnesses and skin diseases.”As per our religion, offering prayers during Kartik Shukla Shasti tithi helps in reducing the sins that we have committed,” explained astrologer Dharma Dev Kumar Mishra, a resident of Ganabahal.

Devotees light lamps during the evening under a canopy of five sugarcane sticks. “The five sticks signify the human body made of five elements — earth, water, fire, air and sky to make the Sun god and Chhathiya Mai happy,” explained Devi. 

Water resources, a must 

Water resources is one of the important aspects of this festival. But if there is no river or lake in the locality, devotees observe the festival by digging a hole in their courtyard and filling it with water.

“According to one of the myths of the festival, once upon a time a businessman was suffering from leprosy and was forced to leave his house. He was struggling hard to live on the river banks. One day a goddess came there during the time of sunset. As the day was Shasti, the goddess was termed as Chhathiya Mai who helped him to deliver his prayers to the Sun god and helped him in curing his leprosy. This is why people want to be on the riverside during the sunset so that their prayers are well delivered,” explained Aanand Kumar Gupta, General Secretary of the Chhath Organising Committee.

Some people even crawl on the riverbanks making rounds or even crawl from their houses to the ghaats during Chhath. “Crawling on Earth is like sitting on a mother’s lap and praying to her to provide us with energy. So, people tend to crawl during this festival,” Mishra further mentioned. 

The legend

There are always some stories attached to a certain festival and Chhath is no different. Among the various tales associated with this festival, Gupta narrated, “According to a conversation between Lord Brahma’s human child Pulastya and Satyabarti Bhisma in Skanda Puran, Draupadi had kept the fasting to please the Sun god so that five Pandavs could get victory over the Kauravs. Her prayers were heard and the Pandavs won the battle in Kurukshetra.” 

Warrior Karna (the son of Surya), famous for his kindness, also used to observe Chhath. As Karna became powerful and popular by worshipping the Sun god, Hindus too started worshipping the Sun so that they could get courage, fame, health, wealth and prosperity like Karna.

Symbolic interpretation

Along with religious beliefs, the festival has scientific significance as well. “Cosmic energy received through our skin and retina helps in charging our pineal gland, pituitary gland and hypothalamus in brain. The ultraviolet rays from the sun during the evening and morning are beneficial to humans and this is why the Sun is worshipped,” said Gupta.

However, there is a symbolic meaning in worshipping the setting and the rising sun. “The setting sun symbolises elderly people and offering prayers to this sun is to help these old people in their later stage of life, whereas the rising sun is compared to young children who must be taken care of and helped,” concluded Gupta.

Bamboo baskets

The devotees carry items necessary for the puja in supo and dalo (special baskets made of bamboo). “These items must be new as only new things are offered to gods,” explained Sangita Devi, a resident of Thaiti, who was offering prayers to the sun at Ranipokhari. 

Nonetheless, using new items is beneficial to those who are involved in this business. “If people use old items, those making the items like dalo and supo will suffer a loss in their business. These items are made in Tarai region of the country. And the sales of these items is the only source of income for these people. This is one reason for giving continuity to the use of these items as a part of the rituals. Besides, bamboo is considered to be pure and people have easy access to it,” explained Depak Koirala, one of the members of the committee. 

Spreading influence

Celebration of Chhath festival was once limited to people living in the Tarai region of the country. Nowadays people living in the hills too have started observing this festival. And 52-year-old Maiya Baidhya of Thaiti is one of them. 

Brought up in the Newar community, she started celebrating the festival three years ago after her Indian friend explained to her about the festival. “There is no wrong in celebrating the festival as we worship the sun everyday. 

There is so much fun in celebrating it which is why I couldn’t stop myself from observing it. Besides that, the sun is also regarded as a symbol of prosperity. All of us want longevity, progress and prosperity of family members. And this fact attracted me to celebrate the festival.”

Source: The Himalayan Times