To home page





March '07

art gallery
New Delhi

Curated by
Johny ML


  • My Gallery: Image
  • My Gallery: Image
  • My Gallery: Image
  • My Gallery: Image
  • My Gallery: Image
Now Loading
Swasti hey Soorya te Swasti

Rashika Ojha visits the recently concluded Chhath Puja in Bihar and sends in a feature on the importance of this festival in the lives of the folk. She traces the mythological roots and contemporary branches of the Chhat festival.

I had exhausted my creativity in decorating the in and out of my house and also my capacity of having sweets. Therefore, my Deepavali was surely a delightful and memorable one but not forgetting that I was soon to leave for Rajgir Festival in Bihar I completed my packing in time. I reached Patna, a city with a privileged geographical location and a golden past. But this visit was special and I was excited for three reasons. First was to meet my grandmother who is my sweetheart. Second was this great chance to perform for the Rajgir Festival, the place where Buddha attained enlightenment. Thirdly, it was this time that I will actually be able to witness chhath.

Rising Sun is worshipped as a symbol of a new beginning, hope and light all over world. But chhath is the only festival where devotees offer salutation to setting sun. Paying obeisance to both aspects of life is practiced in chhath as beginning and end are both part of the same cycle. A festival celebrated in honour of Sun God, chhath denotes the number six as the festival begins on the sixth day of the Hindu Lunar calendar month of ‘Kartik’, which corresponds to the months of October-November. Patna city was dressed up like a bride, roads embellished with flowers and lights of multiple colours, homes spic and span, the banks of Ganges was a terrific sight, devotional songs in air and undefined spirits of people. 

My memories of chhath are meagre which includes eating thekuwa that is specially cooked for chhath, men and women dressed in yellow and offerings paid to Sun God. But above all chhath is about dedication and immense sacrifice. During the four days celebration there is complete abstinence from performing profanities so much so that a sleepless industry like media is also shut re-affirming its spirit. Everyone in all parts of Bihar begins with a thorough spring of cleaning homes and roads especially kitchen where the women would cook thekuwa an offering/prasad cooked of wheat flour.

After all purificatory rituals on the fifth day of Kartik month kheer is cooked and people doing chhath eat kheer with chapattis to commence with the fast. This time even I availed the opportunity of eating the delicious kheer that I will always relish. On the sixth day of Kartik month in the evening, the processional walk to the riverside began, bare foot men and women walked to the riverside where excitement mounts to a solemn crescendo.

Men in yellow dhotis and women in yellow sarees gathered at the riverside, the colour yellow is closely associated with chhath as it is auspicious. Then as the western sky of early winter turned rosy, the scene was a concerted vision of devotion as countless up stretched arms held aloft the glistening bamboo trays and baskets offered what is called aradh. The glowing veiled lamps and a chorus of hymns ringed the air. Next day when I couldn’t see a slightest hint of sunlight, once again the journey to the riverside began.

As we reached all faces turned east and everyone entered waters for the customary holy dip. This wait in water is accompanied by local songs one such song I picked up listening for the past few days as songs of chhath were all over Patna city for the past one month. A very melodious song “Aava ho aditdev leyike kirinya dudh ve aaradh debo tohare charaniya……” where the vower sings: Oh Sun God come soon with millions of rays, I will make you an offering of milk. She goes on to say that she has been waiting for him to come, barefoot and with her aanchal on her forehead.
Once the first streaks of sunlight appeared on the horizon, men and women plunged in water having found a foothold and completely oblivious of the chilling waters began chant of the timeless mantra of the Rig Veda, the Gayatri Mantra. After this last customary ritual the fast was broken and people left the banks. In the evening the bank was abandoned except for the remains such as the sugarcane stalks, marks of sandal paste and vermillion, bamboo baskets, earthen lamps etc. Chhath was over but its beginnings are traced back to a mythical story in Mahabharata. This myth has been told and re-told for ages and has been performed as rituals that has transformed this myth into a living myth that Audrey Cantile conforms, she says  “For, the myths of the Vedas as the source of the highest knowledge continued into the Hindu period, sometimes transformed sometimes co-existing side by side as a complementary tradition. It is this quality of a living presence in the here/now that open up the analysis of myths and their transformations through the contexts in which they are used”
The celebration of the chhath festival exemplifies the living presence of a myth, a presence that has been kept alive by the people of Bihar. Along with the myth, the solidarity among people, hope for fulfillment, the space for aspirations and the scope for better living has also been kept alive.
My trip was over and it was time to go back to Delhi, when I reached Patna railway station I couldn’t believe my eyes as I had never seen the station flanked by such a huge crowd but it brought me relief because I realized how important chhath was to Bihar and I was no more a deprived one cause I too had participated in chhath. All natives of Bihar living elsewhere had come back to their hometowns for celebrating chhath; it has become a social practice re-establishing community and family ties. It has transcended the myth and ritual to install new values to older traditions.


Home About us Contact