How a Vedic tradition of sun worship mixed with Puranic belief became the Chhath festival

VIJAY DEO JHA

Ranchi, October 29: The four-day Chhath festival falling during the full moon month of Kartik has just begun where a sea of ​​devotees will turn up in ponds, rivers, lakes and enjoy offering prayers to the Sun Lord .

A few decades ago, the festival was mainly observed by devotees living in the vast expanse of northern India comprising Bihar and parts of Uttar Pradesh. But the faith and the feast have crossed the regional barriers and now they are observed in the rest of India also across the world. However, the origin and tradition of the holiday needs genuine research for the benefit of the popular masses to be known.

The Chhath is often called a Lok Parva (folk festival) which is not entirely true. What is most interesting is the fact that the Vedic culture and tradition which believed in and praised the supremacy of Lord Sun got mixed with other Puranic stories and festivals associated with the birth of Lord Skanda also called Karttikeya, on the sixth day full moon of Kartik. month. The day is marked when his six mothers (Skanda), called Shashtika Devi / Khashkita Devi, saved his life by feeding him. On this day, Karttikeya was hailed by the gods to lead them into the battlefield against the demons. Hence, the Dharmashastra refers to this occasion as Skand Shashti and Vivaswat Shashti.

On the other hand, since ancient times, there has been a tradition of worshiping the Sun Lord on the seventh full moon day of a lunar month.

The famous Indologist Pandit Bhavanath Jha says that the Chhath is a mixture of so many interesting Vedic and Puranic tales and traditions. Since the two festivals fall side by side, over the centuries they have blended and unified into one festival which we call Chhath now. In fact, Chhath refers to the six mothers of Lord Skanda. The line has become so blurred that Lakshmidhar, a renowned scholar of the 12e century of Kannauj, believed that Karttikeya was another name of Lord Sun for the month of Kartik as mentioned in his book ‘Krityakalpataru’.

Therefore, the festival is simply not dedicated to Lord Sun, the source of power and life on this earth. According to the scriptures, this festival is also dedicated to Lord Skanda, his mother and his wife Devsena.

The Legendary Scholar of 13e century Hemadri in his book ‘Chaturvarga-Chintamani’ gave a description of the worship of the different forms of the Sun Lord on the seventh day of every lunar month. This follows as Magh (Varun), Phalgun (Surya), Chaitra (Anshumali), Vaisakh (Dhata), Jyestha (Indra) Ashada and Shravana (Ravi), Bhadra (Bhag), Ashwin (Parjanya), Kartika (Twastha), Agrahan (Mitra) and Paush (Vishnu). Reference to the above can be seen in the Vrat Khanda Chapter 11 of this book. Hemadri advised devotees who wish to worship the Sun all year round to begin this on the seventh day of the full moon in the month of Kartik. Thus, the reference of the Chhath can be attributed to the Chaturvarga-Chintamani.

Chandeshwar, renowned theologian and scholar of Mithila in 14e century, gave his rulings that one should offer prayers to Lord Karttikeya on the sixth day of the full moon month of Kartik and to Lord Sun on the seventh day. He described in detail when and how to perform the fast.

For centuries, devotees offer Bhushwa (sweet wheat laddu) to the god in the form of prasadam made from wheat, ghee and brown sugar. Lakshmidhar in ‘Krityakalpataru’ describes the method of preparation of Bhuswa.