Significance Of The Chhath Puja / Ganga Puja

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(A Meditation To Please Sun God)
By Anand Kumar Prasad
It is very difficult to get the origin of anything in spiritual language. Duality-DukhaSukha (Suffering-Non suffering) is one like the beginning and ending points of a circle. Circle is hot circle, if beginning and ending points are not one. But we orginary people feel them separately or differently. Religion and Rituals are the occurring/events in between the beginning and ending points of life circle.

All kinds of sufferings and agonies in the ancient Indian texts are classified as Dainik, Daihik and Bhautik Dukha.

DAIVIK DUKHA – Mental suffering contains corrupt immoral feelings of minds as jealousy, perfidy, deception, scandalous planning, revengeful annoyance and cruelty etc. characterise which we may call all as the mental sins.

DAIHIK DUKHA – Physical suffering,  due to congenital deficiencies is due to congenital deficiencies and genetic diseases on account of misutilisation of the corresponding organs in one’s previous life. Physical deformaties or diseases are for remission of sins.

BHAUTIK DUKHA – (Suffering due to natural calamities)

In accordance with spiritual parlance, the reckless deforestation worldwide, ecological imbalances and indiscriminate use of chloro-fluro carbon is Bhautik Dukha. And God punishes us in the form of natural calamities and diseases. Personalists are concerned with above sufferings whereas impersonalists do not care for it. Only when there is a sincere heartfelt prayer, God Himself incarnates or sends His divine agent to our planet to take away Dukhas. There are several illustrations or examples found in our rich mythology, which is a ritualistic part of religion. They are different and they are divergent as well.

CHHATH FESTIVAL – it is a kind of SUNWORSHIP for forgiveness of Sins. The Sun is a Living God. The Sun is perceived as the co-creator and sustainer of life on earth. The Sun’s ray blends with our aura to enrich receptiveness of cosmic energy and guidance. This universal light force can be used in ongoing process of cleaning, balancing, healing and evolving etc. The cosmic energy imbibed through eyes at Sun-rise (Soorya yoga) can heal, elevate and transform us, which in turn can bring about shift in our perceptions for a better world. The sun light is nature’s gift to mankind. The rays of the sun contains seven different colours which correspond to our energy centre or chakra. Unique vibration of each colour in the sun-rays helps us for healing physical, psychological and spiritual ills.

The sun’s rays improve digestion and enhance nutrition, quicken blood circulation facilitate elimination of impurities through skin and make the bone-structure stronger. The sun light lifts one out of depression and thereby helps to elevate the mind.

Common experience says that when ethical things, narrated in a story become interesting and comprehensive, it’s impact on mind lasts longer. When and how Chhath Festival is celebrated by the devotee, as is vividly described in the story, refer to some main characters viz, – Janamjay, Vishampayan, Pandav, Yudhisthir, Dhaumaya Rishi, Draupati, Chayawan Muni and Sukanya (daughter of Sharyati kind).

Pandavan (Arjune, Bhima, Nakul Sahadeva, Yudhisthir, along with their consort Draupadi, in exile lived an extremely miserale life in the forest. They ate forest fruits, slept on earth surface, used banana leaf and Bhoja patra as cloths. Such was the painful tale as was told to Shri Janamjayji by Vaishampayanji about the Pandavas’ lives in exile and their parameters after they were defeated by Durjodhana (causin of the Pandavs) and his evil-minded kins.

Eighty eight thousand Munis (Saints) accidently came to the place where the Pandavas lived. Their coming there caused a great concern for the Pandavas, who while in exile faced numerous troubles and who were leading a hard miserable life. Faced with an anxious moment, Yudhistir Maharaj bewildered as how to welcome and make arrangements for a comfortable stay for the Munis (Saints). Draupati, the daughter of kind Panchal and the consort of the Pandavas was also puzzled, though not nervous. Sensing the anxiety of Maharaj Yudhisthir, she approached her family priest, Daumya Rishi with heavy heart and made a fervent request to put an end to discomforts of Maharaj Yudhisthir.

Rishi Daumya mediated and advised Draupadi to undertake Ravi Shasti Vrat like SUKANYA, who was the only daughter, born out of thousands of wives of the king SHARYATI in Golden age (Satyug). She was unmatched in her beauty and charming and was a darling daughter of her parents. There is an interesting story about Sharyati king. Once he went on a hunting along with his force, fighters, ministers in a dense forest and stayed there for a pretty a long time.

Sukanya along with her girl friens went to collect flowers from the forest when she found Chayavan Rish in a state of penance. His physical body was fully covered with earth and grass and whose eyes, looked like dazzling like the Jugnu (fire fly). She was dismayed and failed to distinguish between the Muni and fire fly. She hit at Muni’s eyes which caused it damage and blood rushed out of it. Sukanya then came home. An incident of a great mistery took place when Chayavan Muni along with the ministers, bore the burnt themselves. They were now upset and they did not know what to do and were therefore restless. In a nervous state of mind, the king took advice from his family – priest and acted on that accordingly. He gave away his daughter Sukanya to Muni Chayavan in marriage for rendering him a life long service. Muni was thus happy with king’s action.

Once in the month of Kartick (October – November), Sukanya went to fetch water from Puskarini, a small pond, when she happened to see a NAGAKANYA, nicely dressed and worshiping Lord Sun at Muni KASHYAP’S Yagyamandap. Sukanya approached Nagakanya, wishing to know about the RAVI VRAT (Chhat Puja) and how to celebrate it as that would bestow upon her a fruitful life. In accordance with the instruction she was given Nagakanya started to observe RAVI SHASTI VRAT. Her blind husband regained his sight and became quite well to live in hale and hearty, and then both Sukaya and Chayavan Muni started enjoying life like LAXMI NARAYAN. She got all that she desired after the observance of Chhath Festival.

After hearing the story by her from her family priest, Draupadi was now mentally at case and Maharaj Yudhisthir with his consort Draupadi together, welcomed the Munis with open arms to their place in great reverence.

This Vrat starts in 4 (four) phases. Devotees (Chhathavrati) begin the celebration on the 4th day of bright moon of Kartik Mas (Oct. – Nov.) as per lunar calendar after Kaddu bhat (Rice-Gourd). Then cames Kharna which falls on the 5th day. Delicious and sanctified food (Bhoga) prepared with processed/unprocessed sugar (Rava Gura) rice, and dry fruits together with other varieties of fruits are offered to God with prayers. Invitees/Non-invitees along with their family members eat Prasad (Bhoga) and share the love and affection between them.

On 6th day, devotees undertake the celebration with fasting and, end this after the ending of the puja. They observe fasting strictly with physical and mental purity, sleeping with bare foot on the ground. In the evening procession of devotees along with family members, dressed in new garments starts for nearby pond/river for worship of the setting sun. A member of a family carries a basket (called DALA) on his head which contains betel nuts, betel, piece of Sugar cane, coconut, dry fruits, raw turmeric plants, Thakua (special type of sweets prepared with wheat flour and sugar fried in vegetable oil/ghee) etc. decorated with paste of vermilion. The most important aspect of this Pooja is offering of “ARGHYA” (the sacred water and milk) to the Sun God. The official priests chant Mantras and pour water and milk first into the sieve full of fruits and sweets and other pure articles, holding by the hands of devotees who remain standing in the waist deep water. Some women sing melodious Bhajans (Folk songs) in praise of Sun God. The banks are fully decorated with candles and lamps. The whole atmosphere is full of devotion and peace. At the end of the worship, all the devotees thank the Sun God for His kindness and blessing for fulfilment of their long cherished desire. Then they distribute the Prasad among their neighbour, and the people nearby.

May Almighty illuminate our intellect and inspire us towards righteous path.

N.B.:- It is worth noting that in this regard about certain group of devotees/unlettered people who do occupy the site saying that it is their permanent place since their forefather’s time. But they should not stick to that, they must change their attitude for public good. This practice needs to be replaced by a lottery system. The bank of the pond/ghat is nobody’s personal property. So no one should claim it so stubbornly. I appeal to the voluntary organisations of Mantripukhri to intervene in the matter in public interest.

Lastly, I am very thankful to Professor Saujenyendra Prasad of Jamshedpur (Jharkhand) for educating me on the relevant ideas about the ritual scriptures which have enabled me to write this valuable article for public consumption.

The writer is a Junior Teacher (Regtl No 5420055) at the Assam Rifles Junior High School, Thoubal, 15 Assam Rifles C/o 99 APO. He is also a M.Ed. Trainee at R.K. Sanatombi Devi College of Education, Asha Jina Complex, North A.O.C. Imphal.

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