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Worship of Sun God: An Indian Festival
[Photo Essay] Chhat puja is the most auspicious and revered festival for Biharis
Rajen Nair (rajennair)     Print Article 
Published 2008-11-07 13:55 (KST)   
Holy water being poured as rituals
©2008 rajen nair
Tens of thousands converge on the sea to witness the Chhat Festival
©2008 rajen nair
On Nov. 4, the day of Chhat festival all roads in Mumbai lead to the Arabian Sea for the migrant people of Bihar. Chhat puja (Worship of Sun God) is the most auspicious and revered festival for the Biharis. Wherever they are, on any part of the world, on this day the Biharis throng the nearest sea shore, and river to pray to the Sun God. The women folk are draped in colorful sarees with red vermillion smeared on their forehead and carry plate full of fruits meant as offering to the Sun God.

This year in Mumbai, the Chhat festival was celebrated with equal fervor and pomp by tens of thousands of Biharis who converged on the soft sand of Juhu Chowpatty. The Biharis come to the city in search of green pastures. They are mostly self employed working as milk vendors, carpenters, newspaper sellers, taxi drivers and bhel puriwalas (snacks).

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I was told that the crowd this year was less compared to last years as some of them preferred to stay back due to the atmosphere of fear prevalent in the city. Lately there is backlash against the north Indians and the Biharis were at the receiving ends at the hands of the local rightist parties propagating Sons of the soil theory. They are protesting against the influx of migrants coming from North India to Mumbai city in search of jobs thus threatening the livelihood of locals.

When I spoke to some of the Biharis, they were brave enough to remain unfazed with the recent controversy and hoped that better sense would prevail and they would get accepted in the city. According to the Indian constitution people of India is free to travel and stay in any part of India.

On the Chhat festival I was told that it is celebrated six days after Diwali, another prominent festival of lights celebrated by the Hindu population of India. The Biharis consider the Sun God as most powerful and believe that seeking his blessing acts as fulfillment of their wishes.

One of the legendary stories is that Lord Rama on completion of 14 years of penance in the forest returns with his wife Janaki to Ayodhya to be crowned as a king. Lord Rama prays to the Sun God to bless the couple with a prodigious son. As a result they were blessed with twins named Luv and Kush.

The Biharis fast on this day and spend the evening on the Sea shore conduct pujas and make offering to Sun God. After the Sun sets the devotees spend the whole night on sea shore braving the chill wind, wait for next day's sun rise to once again worship the Sun God.

Women praying to Sun God
©2008 rajen nair

Preparation for worshipping of Sun God on the sea shore is underway
©2008 rajen nair

A women lying on the sea as form of worship to Sun God
©2008 rajen nair

Lit lamps as part of religous ritual
©2008 rajen nair

People assembled on sea shore for the rituals
©2008 rajen nair

©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Rajen Nair

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