Origin and Significance of ChhathMahaparva
By: Er. Prabhat Kishore
The oldest tradition of sun worship has existed in India. When spirituality and science are seen in unity, then the desire to keep the body healthy with solar energy is visible in the background of Sun worship.
Over a period of time, worshiping Surya after incorporating many concepts in his womb, became famous as Surya Shashti Vrat or Chhath Puja. According to Western writers and other scriptures, the system of Suryopasana (Chhath Puja), developed by the “Magis” (Sakyadweep priests) for the first time, ended GhatakPratha (Purohitya system) and secured a place for women and weaker sections of the society. By introducing a new method of Surya Puja, the Magis not only took it to different parts of the country but also brought it immense popularity.
In the book “Konark”, written by DebalaMitra and published by the Archaeological Survey of India, it has been certified that “Shakdweep priests were brought from Shakdweep located in Aryan (present day Iran) by the King Shamb for worship of Sun; because the local Brahmins had refused to worship Surya’s image. It is noteworthy that the book “Konark” is considered to be the most authentic in relation to “Konark Sun Temple”,which has been declared as “World Heritage” by “UNESCO”.
The book also discusses that the Sun Temples, which were set up by King Shamb on the banks of Chandrabhaga river as honour for Shakdweep priests, had influenced King PurandarKeshari of Ganga dynasty and King NarsinghDev to establish the famous Surya-Mandir of “Konark” built a short distance away, which is a precious heritage of 13th century.
The western author Clement Huarte has written in his book “Asiatic Persia and Iranian Civilization” that the Magi brought great fame to the ancient tradition of Sun worship in Iran. The relation of Shakdweep with Kshirsagaris also shown in Bhishmaparva and Vayupuran of Mahabharat. Shaksthan, Saisthan or Sistan is similar to Shakdweep. With the advent of Magis, co-ordination between medicine, astrology and solar science was established in Bharat. The Vedic name Mitra of the Sun in Sanskrit, who was in the form of Mishra in the Avesta, came to India with “Magis” by adopting his new form “Mihir”. That is why DK Vishwas in “The MagaAncestory of Varahmihir” has proved the eminent astronomer Varahmihir (500 AD) as the Maga (Shakdweep) priests.
King Shamb established a total of twelve “Ark” (meaning Sun) places, for the worship ofthe 12 “Rashi” of the Surya, which belong to Dwapar Yug. These “Ark” sites are – Chanark, Konark (both Odisha), Lolark (Kashi), Dashavark (Ayodhya), Katalark (Uttarakhand), Aadityark (Punjab), Ongark, Balark, Olark, Devark, Punyark, andMarkandeyark(all Bihar). King Shamb’s leprosy was cured by the constant worship of the Sun.
After detailed research of Govindpur inscription (1137 AD)of Gaya district, archaeologistshave proved that “Magis” were brought to Bharat from Shakdweepby King Shambto worshipthe Sun. The second astronomer after Varahmihir, Vanabhatt,whoalso belonged to this class, has mentioned it in “HarshCharit”. So, the SuryashtiVrat orChhath festival developed in the form of Suryopasana. In India today, sidelining the feeling of high & low as well as gender discrimination, Chhath festival is celebrated with great holiness and its beauty is that there is no need of a priest to perform it.
According to “ShambPuran” and “BhavishyaPuran”, Shamb, the son of Jambavati and Lord Krishna was arrogant for his charming face. He used to tease Narad, insult Gargacharya, and even enchantthe queens of Sri Krishna. Enraged by his behavior, they cursed him with deformity andShamb became afflicted with leprosy. Later on being asked by Shri Krishna to get rid of the curse, Narad told that if Shamb worships Lord Surya, then he can be curedof this leprosy.
Naradji advised Shamb – “HitvaTuKamajam Veer Nardo Vakyamvravit. Stutyo Vandyasch Pujya Shch Tamasyaindya Evacha. Bhaskaro Yadu Shardul Brahmandinam Sadanagh”. (i.e. worship Lord Sun, who is revered by Yadushardul Brahma and who removes the darkness. Your desire will be fulfilled, and all other measures are futile).
King Shamb questioned “KvaVsantiMahatmanah Ave Bhaskarakaputrakaah. BhojakaDvijaShardulYeshamanayamhamah”. (i.e., O great man. Where is the Sun’s favorite Mag Purohit, whom I should bring). Then Narad replied “Mama Pujakaram Gatva Shakdwipadihanaya. Lavano Datpare Pare Kshroden Samavrith; Jambudvipatvaro Yasmakshakadwipa Itismritah Aaruhya Garuda Shamb Shighra Gatva Vicharayana”. (i.e, O Shamb, go from Jambu Dweep to Shakdweep and bring here the Shakdweep priests who worship Lord Bhaskar. Bring them across it on Garuda from Shakdweep, which is surrounded by the alkaline ocean).
King Shamb went to Shakdweep and brought eighteen family members of Shakdweep priests. On the banks of river Chandrabhaga in Odisha, these priests assistedShamb in the Suryopasana fast, which cured his leprosy and cleansed his body. Even today, on the banks of riverChandrabhaga, there are remains of the Sun temple built by Shamb.
Shri Krishna son Shamb story
According to another legend, Lord Krishna’s wife Rukmini was sitting in a decorated palace in Dwarka. At the same time, Shamb, the son of Lord Krishna’s second wife Jambavati, reached there. When he saw the grooming of Rukmini, he thought that if Rukmini was his wife, how lucky would he be? While Shamb was still thinking that Rukmini’s eyes fell on him andshe recognized his feelings. She got angry and said that you have such feelings for me?I am your mother. At the same time Shri Krishna came there and Rukmini told him all the things. An enraged Shri Krishna cursed Shambtohave leprosy and soon his whole body was filled with it.
Depressed, Shamb went to the GauGhat of Mathura and started worshiping God. After some time, DevarishiNarad, while traveling, reached GauGhat and Shambdescribed the whole thing. Naradjiadvised him to do Surya Shashti of Chaitra and Kartik month. Naradji called the priests of Shakdweep to assist Shambin observing the Surya Shashti fast. After some timeall the ailments of Shamb’s bodywere removed. When Shri Krishna came to know about this, he reached Mathura and was astonished to see his son. Shambapologized to Shri Krishna and returned to Dwarka with him.
According to a legend narrated in the Van Parva, a thousand years had passed after Chyawan Rishi did penance in the same posture, due to which his immovable body was covered with earthen lumps made by termites. One day Sukanya, daughter of King Sharyarti, came there with her family members during a forest tour. The eyes of the princess fell on two shiny objects and she poked the objects with a stick. Both these objects, which were the eyes of the sage, were torn apart by the stick and the sage became blind.
Later, Sukanyamarried the blind Chyawan Rishito serve as his eye. One day when Sukanya went to take a bath on the banks ofPushkarni, the Nag Kanya (snake girl)there advised her to worship the Sun by keeping a fast on the Shashti of Kartik Shukla Paksha. Sukanya along with her husband worshiped the Sun by observing a fast of Shashti. Due to this both the eyes of Chyawan Rishi got back. It is said that the tradition of fasting and worshiping the sun started from this day.
Worshiping the Sun not only gives relief from various diseases, but also gives desired results. the Vedas and Upanishads describe the way of worshiping the Sun. According to the story described in the Vanparva of Mahabharat, MaharajYudhishthir lost everything in the game of gambling. After this hehad to take shelter in the forest along with his family. It was a time of crisis and they were tempted to eat. On the advice of family priest Yudhisthir, along with Draupadi, started worshiping the Sun with 108 names. Pleased with Yudhishthir’s fast, Lord Sun gave him a wonderful copper pot, in which delicious food was always available.
Apart from the family priest, Maharishi Dhaumya also advised Draupadi and the Pandavs to perform the ritual of Chhath Puja, which later helped them achieve royalty, wealth and fame. It is said that due to the desired benefits that Yudhishthir got after worshiping the Sun, People also started performing Chhath Puja. This tradition is going on since the Mahabharat period even today. Most of the fasts of Hindu religion are observed by women, but Chhath is the only fast that is observed by men as well as women.
According to a legend, King Priyavrat, the son of Svayambhuv Muni, got married, but after a long time had no child. Then Maharishi Kashyap performed the PutreshtiYagya and gave Kheer made for the Yagyahuti to Priyavrat’s wife Malini. Due to this effect, Malini conceived but she got a dead son. Depressed Priyavrat went to the crematorium with his son and started sacrificing his life due to separation of the son.
Then Devi Devasena, the psyche-daughter of Brahma, appeared and said- “Rajan, my father had married me to Swami Kartikeya. I am Skandapatni and among the Saptamatrikas I am known as the sixth Matrika. Being born from the sixth part of the original nature of the universe, I am called Shashti. I bless child to the childless, wealth to the poor, health to the sick, and the fruits of noble deeds to the virtuous. Rajan, you worship me and inspire others too.” King Priyavrat worshiped Goddess Shashti and got a son. Since this puja was performed on the Shashti Tithi of Shukla Paksha, people started fasting for the GoddessChhathi.
(The author is a technocrat and an academician. He is Master in Engineering from M.N. Regional Engineering College, Allahabad/Prayagraj)