Celebration is always associated with energy, enthusiasm and excitement. What is celebration if there is no cheer, no joy? Celebration could be as simple as welcoming an employee in the organization to something as grand as applauding a child when he receives an award in school and the list goes on and on…
Hailing from a very small village in Bihar known as Barhaiya, we have celebrated THE festival of Bihar “Chhathh Puja.” As children we used to love celebrating this festival due to various reasons which still holds value for me as an adult. The main significance of Chhathh is to offer oblations to the Sun which is the driving force and energy for all living beings.
Like all festivals, this too has its own charm and splendor. It is a four day festival where we begin with a special afternoon meal made of gram dal and sweet tamarind water eaten with rice. On the same day women of the family purchase fruits in huge quantities. An assortment of these fruits are later arranged in big baskets for the puja. On the second day we are supposed to seek blessings from the person who observes the fast.
“Why do we FAST?” is a question I would often pose to my mother as a child.
Is it to show deep love and gratitude towards our God?; to seek something from HIM?; to cleanse ourselves of our impurities?; to develop a strong mental power of refraining from something or is it to simply surrender unto HIM and tell HIM, “Please hold me and carry me, I am offering myself unto Thy Hands!” She would explain to me saying whatever we offer to God with gratitude, love, devotion, surrender and faith, He accepts!
It is not by fasting alone we can please Him. By leading a rightful life we are offering ourselves unto HIM and our life becomes a prayer unto HIM. My father would add on by saying; “A life rightfully lived is worth much more than a thousand prayers or fast.” Devotion can be expressed in any form; as long as it comes from the inner chambers of one’s heart.
I remember my great grandmother and grandmother fasting on this festival. The person fasting would give us some prasad (offerings made to God) in the form of fruits, a sacred red thread and adorn our forehead with orange kumkum (orange sacred vermillion colour especially used for Chhathh). The next day was the main day when the fast was observed without having anything including water for the entire day till the next day sunrise. These two days were the main days of the festival. Just thinking about these days fills me with unabated excitement and joy.
The third day would generally start at 3 pm in the afternoon when everyone from the family would assemble at the portico. By family, I mean not just our individual family but the extended family. We used to stay in a house with four floors, a big garden and a rear parking which housed a cow (quite unheard of, in the modern contemporary context). My father has two brothers and two uncles, so each of us had a floor to ourselves. Our house was always booming with children of all ages. All of us together, young and old were close to fifty in number. Trucks filled with fruit trays along with the drum players would be travelling with us to the Ganges river and playing the drums throughout the journey to celebrate this festival.
Having born and lived in Bengal, I had always seen the Bengalis making a hoolala sound from their mouths on special festival days which reflected their happiness. The sound of the drums on that day was equivalent to a thousand elephants trumpeting together and is considered to be one of the most sought after instruments in Bengal. All of us, integrating the Bengal and Bihar traditions together squealed with excitement as the drum players did their assigned duty of playing the drums till we reached the Ganges river. We were a bunch of crazy little ones where we would seize every opportunity to laugh, scream, sing, dance, splash water on each other simply because we all were together.
Thus would begin the journey and as Revered Mahatria says,
“The journey to the pilgrimage is more exciting than the pilgrimage itself “, so truly it was.
Having read a very beautiful article on “Building a Family”, a sentence from the article revealed something very deep and significant in my life as a child. “Investments in spiritual practices and virtues will reap profits even across births.” Staying in a big joint family we had the privilege and advantage of hosting some spiritual practices every month on a mass scale with the participation of every family member. This had made a strong impact in each of our lives. I feel it has drawn in the best of possibilities for each one of us from all directions. Above all celebrations became an integral part of us, as we celebrated every festival from each religion with the same zeal, excitement and vigour.
To conclude, I feel the duty and responsibility as an adult and parent is to instill moral ethical values in our children which will take them across each obstacle in life. The way we celebrated each festival, life celebrated and gave us MOST AND MORE in all aspects. The above has been one such experience in my life!
Come let us celebrate life and each other choicelessly… I am sure life will keep celebrating us manifold and fill the lives of all whom we meet with unabated excitement and joy!!!
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