I had not decided to celebrate today. But nature pulled me in.
For last few months I had been parallel-y working on a project in New Delhi. Rather it is my expression on Climate Change living in a region which in itself is an extension of extremism in most ways. For one it is making our lives vulnerable to diseases here, viruses, climate catastrophes in terms of pollution and per square population density, in the National Capital Region. Working on a project such as this has taken my breath, my life in a way that I sometimes remunerate myself a quote that Andrei Tarkovsky used to say on ‘Cinema requiring sacrificing of yourself. That You should belong to it, it shouldn’t belong to you. Cinema uses your life, not vice versa. In all ways, i have proved him right, without making much progress.
On a whim last night I and team decided to visit the Yamuna river early morning as mist has started to settle over the flowing water. We walked till noon to film the water and its flood banks, to interview some people. But as the day rose; river, nearby tributary, canal, ghats started to receive so many people that we had to kind of flee. It turned out to be a major day of possibly the diety of the climate itself. The Sun. Here, It is known as Chhath.
Chhath, an ancient Hindu festival historically native to the Indian subcontinent, more specifically, the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and the Nepalese provinces of Madhesh and Lumbini.
Prayers during Chhath puja are dedicated to the solar deity, Surya, to show gratitude and thankfulness for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and to request that certain wishes be granted. The Goddess that is worshipped during the famous Chhath Puja is known as Mother Chhathi. She is also known as Usha in the Vedas. believed to be the consort of the Sun. Usha is used to refer to dawn – The first light of day. But in the Rig Veda she has more symbolic meanings. Symbolically she is the dawn of divine consciousness in the individual. In essence, it is the worship of the elements in nature which spreads the message of conservation. Cleaning of water bodies for the puja is a significant environment-friendly activity. It is also believed that the human body absorb positive solar energy during sunrise and sunset.
Science says the rays during sunrise and sunset have the least ultraviolet radiation. People worship Chhathi Maiya during the Chhath Puja to overcome the troubles in their life. She provides the knowledge that can dispel the darkness in the life of people.
It is celebrated six days after Deepavali or Diwali, on the sixth day of the lunar month of Kartika (October–November). The rituals are observed over four days. They include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water (vrata), standing in water, and offering prasad (prayer offerings) and arghya to the setting and rising sun. Some devotees also perform a prostration march as they head for the river banks. To me there nothing greater to see and learn that we people are still carrying age old rituals that should be a norm for each human and trying to pass it on to the generations coming but there is a huge but.
Many do not know the science behind it. There is no feeling involved. Almost all do not care rather they care it to perform. Like performing anything today for camera. As I walked through this horde, revering, seeing this overflow of emotions felt like an automated doing of anything that humans do out of age old habits.
This canal which flows near to where I live, I pass each day to reach my school, also flows by a huge landfill. It could be the most toxic thing to immerse oneself into. To wash ones clothes, utensils, or to stand for hours praying to the sun feels almost hallucinatory. More so because on other 361 days no one will even stop for a second to smell the fumes that come from the landfill flying over the canal, but it was so unreal to see this congregation that it even amused even the passers by who know their own countrymen, and its absurd to many ancient practices. They stood more for the spectacle than for the sight.
It is believed that Chhath Prayer was also performed by Karna– the sixth Pandava, the son of Lord Surya and the king of Anga Desh, which is the modern-day Bhagalpur in Bihar. According to another legend, Pandavas and Draupadi also performed the Puja to overcome obstacles in their lives and reclaim their lost kingdom. For the people from Bihar and other close by areas, Chhath Puja is considered as Mahaparva- the festival of the festivals. And interestingly, Environmentalists claim that the festival of Chhath is one of the most eco-friendly festival in the World.
As I was leaving for home later in the evening, I sincerely felt that even though we have the masses who really care about their heritage, identity, history but there is an enormous lack of local level leadership- the ones who are earnest in nature, the learners because here is a huge scope. Here is a beautiful foundation to start from to work for the people, and indirectly to work for the nature that is us as much is the mother nature.
Sharing some findings as I researched on anonymous paintings from eras gone by.
Patna Kalam paintings on Chhath
The first is one of the oldest known painting of the Patna kalam (the Patna school of Company Painting) and depicts Chatt Puja. While the name of the painter is unknown, it was commissioned by/made for Edward Ephraim Pote a merchant with the East India Company at Patna.
(The painting is now in the collection of the British Library).
The second painting which is housed at the Art Institute of Chicago is by the doyen of Patna kalam, Sevak Ram. Titled “A Hindu Festival” it is in all probability the depiction of Chhat.
The third painting, which came up for auction at Bonhams is attributed to Sevak Ram.
A Happy Chhath to each one of my Travellers
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