The Covid-19 is dampening the mood of people and the spirit of religious pluralism. Long-established Chhath Puja, an outdoor religious ritual and celebration is an environmental necessity. However, with the lockdown on public gathering and such celebrations, given that the pandemic coronavirus, devotees all across the country are reported to be despondent and downhearted.
With roots in the Rig Veda, Chhath Puja celebration holds great importance in today's context. The salience of the Puja goes beyond its religious identity, underlining the covalent correlations between environment and lifestyle of the people around. In reverence to the Sun God, the ritual of Chhath Puja is punctuated with cleanliness and sanitation that essentially adds up wings to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pet project: Swachh Bharat and Namami Ganga.
Historically native to Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh of India, Chhath Puja is now observed across the world with high spirits and alacrity from Mumbai to Mauritius and from America to Australia, cutting across geographical boundaries.
People in these territories celebrate it as their culture, faith and practice religiously, with great piety, devotion and fervour since the time immemorial.
It is the Indian culture, particularly the Mithila belt where Goddess Sita was born, where we pay our gratitude to all elements of nature that benefit us in some way or the other. Worshipping plants, trees, sun, moon, animals or the likes is the testimony to the fact that we relate and connect to them as our dharma and karma in the Indian society.
Worshipping the Sun is of great value and meaning in Indian science and philosophy. Before winter sets in and waterlogging recedes, the devotees of Chhath, which falls on the sixth day of ''Kartik'' according to Hindu calendar, minutely cleans the ponds, rivers, water bodies, surroundings and human inhabitations. Moreover, the sun becomes more relevant in winter as it shields us from parky cold and reinvigorates the human body.
The devotees being conscious of environmental concerns pay minute attention to sanitation and cleanliness during the celebration of Chhath. They observe complete abstinence or prohibition and maintain remarkable cordial relationship and brotherhood, which necessarily is in the interest of mankind and human lives.
If Chhath Puja is declared as a national festival, it will entail a plethora of benefits. One of them is that the sanitation drive of the current government will see a fillip spontaneously. Religious practice has a binding and multiplier effect.
Moreover, it will encourage Indian culture, values, and ethos associated with the Puja which is truly scientific. In this chaste celebration, indigenous goods, articles and handicrafts which governments tend to promote are used.
The Sun regarded as God in Hindu mythology is worshipped when it rises and sets down. Such a culture is one of its kinds, which is not found elsewhere in the international arena. Only India can boast of it. However, thanks to Poorvanchali migrants across the world, Chhath culture is extrapolating all across the globe.
On biological count, the Sun is a powerful source of vitamin D, which people in the west remain somewhat deprived of because of lower temperatures, is in abundance in India. In days to come, solar energy will be the best possible source of electricity.
Sunrays neutralize the germs and unwanted insects around, protecting human life and augur well for healthy human life and nation.
Every Indian festival has its tale, anecdotes, specialty, and values. So is the case with Chhath Puja. Maybe more relevant and scientific!
Whether it is in Delhi, Mumbai or Patna, the Chhath culture is on the rise exponentially because of its values, purity and pertinence. Delhi with a sizeable population of Poorvanchali migrants around 80 lacs has a massive impact on electoral democracy.
Chhath has all potentials to safeguard sanctum sanctorum of environment and mankind. Standing in waist-deep water (Katisnan) is an age-old practice in naturopathy, as it cures many diseases and offers longevity.
The routes to the designated worshipping sites on the banks and rivers are made so clean and smooth that many of devotees take prostration march to the designated place of worship.
Dharma paves the way for a meaningful living, peace and tranquility, which everybody aspires to achieve these days.
Dr Birbal Jha is a noted author and Managing Director of Lingua Multiservices Pvt Ltd. having a popular trademark brand ‘British Lingua’. He is credited as having created a revolution in English training with the slogan ‘English for all’ in India. He has also been accorded the status of the ‘Youngest Living legend of Mithila’.