VIJAY DEO JHA
Ranchi, Oct 29: The four days long Chhath festival falling in the full moon month of Kartik has just started where a sea of devotees will turn up at ponds, rivers, lakes and like to offer prayers to the Lord Sun.
The festival some decades back was mainly observed by faithful living on the vast swathe of Northern India comprising Bihar and parts of Uttar Pradesh. But the faith and festival have leaped beyond the regional barriers and now it is observed in rest of India also across the globe. However, the origin and tradition of the festival needs an authentic research for the benefit of common masses to know.
The Chhath is often referred to as a Lok Parva (folk festival) which is not completely true. What is most interesting is the fact that the Vedic culture and tradition that believed and praised the supremacy of the Lord Sun got mixed with other Puranic stories and festivals associated with the birth of Lord Skanda also called Karttikeya, on the sixth full moon day of Kartik month. The day is marked when his (Skanda) six mothers, referred as Shashtika Devi / Khashkita Devi saved his life by feeding him. On this day, Karttikeya was hailed by Gods to lead them in the battlefield against demons. Hence, the Dharmashastra refers to this occasion as Skand Shashti and Vivaswat Shashti.
On the other hand, since ancient times there has been the tradition to worship Lord Sun on the seventh day of the full moon of a lunar month.
Noted Indologist Pandit Bhavanath Jha says that the Chhath is a mix of so many interesting Vedic and Puranic tales and traditions. Since both the festivals fall side by side, hence over centuries it got mixed and unified into a festival which we call Chhath now. In fact Chhath refers to six mothers of Lord Skanda. The line got so blurred that Lakshmidhar, a noted scholar of 12th century from Kannauj , believed that Karttikeya was another name of Lord Sun for the month of Kartik as referred to in his book ‘Krityakalpataru’.
Hence, the festival is just not dedicated to Lord Sun, the source of power and life on this earth. As per the scriptures this festival is also devoted to Lord Skanda, his mother and wife Devsena.
The legendary scholar of 13th century Hemadri in his book ‘Chaturvarga-Chintamani’ has given description of worship of different forms of Lord Sun on the seventh day of each 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). The reference of the above can be seen in the Vrat Khanda Chapter 11 of this book. Hemadri has advised devotees who are willing to worship the Sun round the year, should start this on the seventh day of the full moon of Kartik month. Thus, the reference of the Chhath can be traced to the Chaturvarga-Chintamani.
Chandeshwar, the noted theologies and scholar of Mithila in 14th century, has given his rulings that one should offer prayers to Lord Karttikeya on the sixth day of full moon month of Kartik and to Lord Sun on the seven day. He has described in detail when and how to perform the fast.
For centuries devotees offer Bhushwa (sweet wheat laddu) to the God as prasadam made from wheat, ghee and brown sugar. Lakshmidhar in ‘Krityakalpataru’ describes the method of preparation of Bhushwa.