"All that exists was born from the Sun- there is nothing apart from it. Of what is and has been and is to be and what moves and remains still.... the Sun alone is the source and the end"
Divine Creator, Nourisher, Vivifier and Destroyer.... if there is one name which combines all these attributes it is the "Surya or the Sun God "- one of the most venerated and revered natural elements, a source of light, heat, life and knowledge. From time immemorial, aware of His awesome creative might and destructive power, human beings have tried to appease Him by rituals and worship ,verses and hymns, and raising edifices in his honour.
Bihar has a living tradition of the most glorious form of Sun worship. The month of Kartik ( November), most sacred and auspicious of all the Hindu months, ushers in, six days after Deepavali, the celebration of this festival - "Chhatha-Vrata"- when the harvest season begins and the golden grain is reaped from the fields, the first crop is offered to the Sun... the Lord of Crops, the Maker of seasons ! Chhatha-Vrata is observed as a thanks giving to the deity for having granted various wishes - birth of a son, recovery from illness, protection from evil spirits and deliverance from sin.
In ancient Pataliputra and modern Patna the state capital, the sacred banks of the Ganga form one of the most important venues for this celebration.
As legends have it, "Draupadi", the wife of the "Pandavas "rulers of Hastinapur ( modern Delhi ) had performed the Chhatha -Vrata.... exiled and banished form their kingdom, living in great adversity in the forests they were faced one day with a formidable task of feeding 88 thousand wandering hermits who were to visit them. The Pandavas had barely enough for themselves and thus were hardly in a position to fulfill their obligation as Grihastha ( householders) and provide meals to the "Atithis" (Guests in this case the sages) in the customary Indian tradition. Seeing Pandavas in deep anguish, Draupadi sought the help from the noble sage Dhaumya, who impressed upon her the merits of worshipping the Sun god... Draupadi was not only able to solve her immediate problem but her Sun worship helped the Pandavas later regain their lost kingdom.
In the same tradition devotees, mostly women, faithfully worship the deity which involves a practice of rigid rites, where a single error could have an adverse effect on the worshipper. Two days before the Sun worship, devotees observe fasts to purify themselves... living away from routine house hold chores, sleeping on the floor on stacks of hay and wearing unstitched clothes, eating salt-less ritual food cooked in isolation in earthen utensils. Offered first to the Sun God, the newly harvested rice forms the main ingredient off this ceremonial food. Complete fasts are observed on the sixth day when preparations for elaborate offerings (Prasad) are made - sweetmeats, seasonal & dry fruits, vegetables and ritual objects -all placed on sieves and put in a large wicker basket are carried to the riverfront. Devotees walk barefoot or prostrate themselves on way to their destination. After the ritual bath, standing chest-deep in cold water they hold the sieves and making circular motions pause awhile facing the Savitri (the setting Sun) bowing in reverence. The process goes on till the Sun sets.
The vigil starts with mediation and chanting for the Sun-God to appear. From well after midnight countless earthen lamps are lit and places on the waterfront, their golden radiance dispelling the darkness. On the seventh morning the entire ritual is repeated. Clad in yellow saris with the parting of their hair besmeared with vermilion drawn in a straight line over their noses, they invoke the blessings of "Vivashvat" - the rising Sun.
The Chhath Festival is not just a simple religious celebration. It is a witnessing of the forces of unquestioned faith at work.
Bihar has a number of Sun temples, each of them flanked by a Suraj-kund or sacred pool of the Sun, forming a popular venue for the celebration of this festival.
Till recently being the exclusive festival of Bihar, " Chhath " has become so popular that, now it is celebrated even in other states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra etc.
Situated on the National Highway no. 2, 150 kms from Patna near Gaya in the Aurangabad district, Deo is the most ancient of all sites where the legendary King Aila of Prayaga ( Allahabad ) was cured of leprosy. Here stands a beautifully ornamented Sun temple housing an image of the deity in its sanctum. The tower bears fiery symbols of Surya besides figures of other deities. The temple surprisingly faces the West, unlike traditional Sun temples which face the East. An interesting legend explains this- His might being challenged by Muslim invaders, the Sun God turned His face to the West to save the honour of His faithful devotees. Nearby is Jamur, the village of the renowned Mayura Bhatta - poet laureate of King Harshvardhana who was cured of leprosy here, and later wrote the famous Surya Shataka a hundred stanzas in praise of the Sun.
About 90 kms from Patna, near Nalanda in a village called Surajpur ,named after the Sun Himself is another remarkable shrine famed for its beautiful sculpture of Surya and other Brahmanical and Buddhist deities.
About 99 kms from Patna, there are ruins of several temples but those dedicated to the Sun stand out. In one of them are the remains of the Sanctum Sanctorum and the Assembly Hall with its highly ornamental pillars. The other has a stone pedestal carved with the figure of the Sun God riding His chariot, drawn by seven fully caparisoned steeds.
Nearly 119 kms from Patna is the site of another famous Sun temple marked today by a small structure containing a number of sculptures of solar deities and; housing an image of Lord Vishnu.
How to Get there ?
Via : Patna and Gaya.
These two cities are well connected with all major cities/Metropolitans directly by air, rail and road.
What to wear in the winter-season ?
Light woolens during the day, heavy woolens at night .