RELEVANCE OF SURYA PUJA AND CHHATHVRAT

Prabhat Kishore

Er. Prabhat Kishore                                                                                                    The Holy Purans deal with several types of stories related to Suryopasana (worship of Sun). The Sun is called the soul of the world in the Vedas. In the Vedic period, the Sun was considered to be the creator of the entire universe. The meaning of Surya is – all inspiring.
In “Rigveda”, the world’s oldest scripture, there is a detailed description of the worship of the Sun for the salvation of sins. Like fire, He is considered to be the sustainer and direct deity of the world. There are 14 hymns available in this Holy book about the Sun. In the 49th hymn, Suryadev has been invoked to wish for wealth. According to the 50th hymn, ” Rising this day, O rich in friends, ascending to the loftier heaven,Surya remove my heart’s disease, take from me this my yellow hue.”
In Yajurveda, by saying “Chaksho Suryo Jayat”, the Sun is considered to be God’s eye. In the Chhandogya Upanishad, the Sun is described as Pranavand the benefit of getting a son has been told on his meditation. The Koshitiki Brahman describes the worship of the Sun by offering water and sandalwood with Ardhya. Along with this, there is also a mention of Sun worship in various other literatures. The famous “Surya Shatakam” was composed by Mayur, the court poet of the sixth century ruler Harshavardhan.
Historically, the tradition of Surya worship was prevalent even in the Nav-prastar era i.e. 8000-9000 BC. This inspiration of worship came from India to West Asia, Egypt, Greece and Rome. The Sun is a beacon of radiant energy, without which the creation is impossible to imagine. In the scriptures, the Sun is given credit for removing poison. Curing of mental diseases, leprosy, blindness has also been discussed in the Upanishads and Sanskrit literature by praising the Sun. The source of Surya’s powers is his wives Usha and Pratyusha. In fact, ChhathMahaparva is the combined worship of thesetwo powers along with the Sun. We bow jointly to our adored God and Goddess by paying obeisance to the last ray of the Sun (Pratyusha) in the evening and the first ray of the sun (Usha) in the morning. The worship of mother power holds its own important place in the core of Indian culture. The value of maternal power can be seen in all the traditions of Shaivism, Vaishnav and Buddhist.
Archaeological evidence of the worship of “Matri Shakti”dates back to the early period of the development of civilization. The ritual of worship of Matridevi related to Sun may have started in the Kushan period (1st century AD) or even earlier. In the excavation, a number of soup-shaped paved clay watercourses have been found during the Kushan period. The idol of Matridevi and Deeya (lamps) were also used in this. From the Gupta period to the Pal Period, the adjustment of the two powers of the Sun, Usha and Pratyusha, is found in the sculptures.
The Surya chariot with four horses was conceived in early AD; but from the Gupta period, the idol of Surya with seven horses was made. The statue depicts a crown on the head of the Sun, a lotus flower in both hands, a coil in the ear, armor in the chest and foot-to-knee high boots. Two femaleon either side, male figures, chariots attached to seven or four horses and the charioteer Arun are also shown. The female figuresare the two wives of the Sun (Shakti)- Usha and Pratyusha (Prabha and Chhaya). Pingal (Fire) and Dand (in place of Skand) are in standing on right and left side respectively. Pingal holds a pen and an inkpot in his hand and Dandis equipped with a pendulum. In iconography, Indian artists clearly incorporated into sculpture all those traditions that had been in vogue for centuries.
Every year the adoration of Sun is performed on the Shastitithi (sixth day) of Shukla Paksha in the month of Kartik and Chaitra and is popularlyknown as “Chhath”. What is the similarity between Sun and Chhath? Why Surya Puja is called Chhath Puja? There are many stories in this regard in Vedas, Purans, Upanishads, Mahabharat and other scriptures. These stories are related to the Gods of different times. Due to lack of uniformity between them, it is difficult to come to the conclusion that which story is fictional and which is true. The form of Lord Surya has emerged from the word “Om” of Brahma.
The folk festival is a mirror of the cultural heritage of every state; be it Ganpati Puja in Maharashtra, Bihu in Assam, Onam in Kerala, Pongal in Tamil Nadu or Lohri in Punjab. Similarly, one of the folk festivals of Magadh (now Bihar and surrounding regions) is “Chhath” in which purity, faith and reverence are at their culmination. It is performed as an essential responsibility of the public life of the State. This is the reason that now Chhath has been taken out of the purview of the festival and is called Mahaparv.
In this great festival, Lord Surya is worshiped for world peace, family happiness and prosperity. The ChhathParv has become world-wide; and apart from Indian subcontinent, nowthis festival is also held in countries like Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, Surinam, America, Trinidad and Indonesia. The oral and moral characters of the Gita are visible in this Mahaparvaand in this sense, this Mahaparva has become a symbol of culture by taking the form of personal faith and reverence.
Known by names like Surya Shashti, Pratihar Shashti, Dala Shashti and ChhathVrat, this great festival has a tradition of worshiping both the Astachalgami Surya (the setting sun) as well asUdiyaman Surya (the rising sun) respectively on the sixth and seventh day of the Shukla Paksh of Kartik and Chaitra month. It ignores the saying that everyone bows to the rising sun. So, the first inspiration from Chhath festival is that even if there is a shadow of sorrow on one’s internalization or externalization, then one should continue with it. This tradition of Surya worship is a cultural heritage of thousands of years.
ChhathVrat is a four-day long festival, which are considered very spiritual. Purity, cleanliness and following the Vidhi-Vidhans (rules) are the first condition of this festival. There is a general opinion that if the wishes are fulfilled by this festival, then any mistake has to face the consequences too. Therefore, as much as the devotees have faith in this festival, there is also the fear that no mistake may be made.
This Vrat begins with a Nahay-Khai, in which devotees take bath in the rivers or other water bodies. Then pumpkin curry and rice (may be accompanied by other dishes) made from rock salt is eaten. On the second day, i.e. on Kharna (Lohanda), pure ghee linen breadalongwith kheer (prepared with sugarcane juice or jaggery) are offered as Prasad. The third day is the Sandhya Ardhya to the setting Sun.The second ParanArdhya is offered to the rising sun on the last or fourth day. Vratis standing in water, soups laden with Puja items kept nearby and crowds of devotees to help the fasts – together makes the atmosphere devotional.
Among the many fasts observed in the Sanatan Dharma, Chhath is the only such fast in which we worship the deity (Sun) whom we see every day directly and who is the promulgator of life on the earth.
(The author is a technocrat & academician. He holds Master in Engineering from M.N. Regional Engineering College, Allahabad/Prayagraj)