Kolkata: Like several other parts of India, Kolkata too celebrated Chhath Puja with fervour. The banks of river Ganga witnessed a huge footfall as people came with crackers and banyans to celebrate.
Chhath Puja is mainly celebrated among the Bihari community. NewsGram reporter Soutrik Das spoke to a few Biharis to know their feelings about the way this Bihari festival has gained popularity in Bengal.
“I am living in Bengal for 20 years and celebrating Chhath Puja here is no less than that in Bihar,” said Vikas Jaiswal. “Like other festivities, Chhath Puja gives a message of unity. We distribute sweets and thekuas among every community. I think the city of joy welcomes this grand festival of Biharis in their own way”.
Shiven Singh, a 1st-year student of Bhawanipore College said, “My family belongs to Chapra, but every year we came to Bengal to celebrate Chhath Puja as our relatives reside here. We celebrate the puja with all our Bengali friends in Kolkata.”
The Chhath Puja brings together all sections of the society and turns Kolkata into a little Bihar, where everyone celebrates their grand festival with Bhojpuri songs and launda dance.
About five years ago, when Financial Times journalist and author Victor Mallet began living in Delhi, he was shocked to discover that the Yamuna — “this beautiful river of Indian legend and art” — was chocked with untreated sewage and industrial waste after it had passed through the city on its way to Mathura, Agra and on to join the Ganga at Allahabad. He wondered “how a river so sacred to so many Indians could also be so polluted and neglected” and then set out to record the plight of the Ganga.
His exhaustive journey led him to various key locations on the river, including its source at Gaumukh and Sagar Island and the Sunderbans at its mouth in the Bay of Bengal. This culminated in the publication of “River of Life, River of Death” (Oxford University Press/Rs 550/316 pages).
“My conclusion is that it is not impossible (to clean the Ganga) — but it is very difficult. Narendra Modi is the latest of several Indian prime ministers to announce plans to rescue the Ganga — in fact, I would say he has been the most fervent — but like his predecessors, he has struggled to implement these plans despite the availability of funds from India itself and from international donors such as the World Bank and Japan.
“Clearly, the Ganga has enormous problems of physical pollution from sewage, industrial toxins and pesticide run-off. Too much of the water is diverted for irrigation in the dry season, which can leave parts of the river without water before the monsoon. But with political will and public support — I don’t think anyone in India objects to saving the river — it can be done,” Mallet told IANS in an email interview from Hong Kong.
The important thing, he maintained, is to change mindsets and he noted in this context that it is quite common among devout Hindus to say: “Ma Ganga is so spiritually pure that nothing we throw in the river will sully her or make a difference.”
The author said that sensible holy men and environmentalists who care for the Ganga term this as nonsense — and the reason it’s not true is that the Ganga’s very spiritual power arises from its physical properties as a life-giver, as a provider of water and fertility.
“That’s why rivers have always been worshipped in ancient times, including in England. So if you destroy the river’s life-giving qualities through pollution, you destroy the source of her spiritual importance,” he added.
In the book, he also states that it is not impossible to clean the Ganges, “as river clean-ups in Europe and America have shown”.
Elaborating on this, he said: “When I was a child living in London, my mother always told me not to fall in the Thames because the river was so filthy that if I fell in I would have to go to hospital and have my stomach pumped! Yet today the Thames is clean — muddy, but virtually free of industrial pollution and untreated sewage — because successive governments and water and sanitation companies have stopped the pollution.
“The same is true of the Rhine in continental Europe and the Chicago river in the United States. The great thing about rivers is that you don’t have to scrub them clean — you just have to stop polluting them and the natural flow of the river does the rest.”
Mallet maintained that the record on the Ganga has so far been disappointing in terms of implementation, but hoped that there will be a change now that there is a new minister in charge.
“If you clean the Ganga by improving sanitation, you not only save the goddess, you also create thousands of jobs in infrastructure development, and save the lives of thousands of children who die each year because of bad water, poor hygiene and stomach bugs. Likewise, if India curbs its greenhouse gases — and this seems to be happening anyway because alternative energy such as solar power is now very competitive on price — then that will also help it to reduce the kind of air pollution that has recently been afflicting Delhi and the whole of North India,” he maintained.
Mallet went on to add that he learnt a lot about the mythology and the history of the river — and the history of India — in the course of his research for the book.
“In a way, India is so rich in civilisations and stories that you can never say you have completed your work as a researcher and writer. You can at least make a start, and also explain the contemporary political, social, religious and environmental issues that affect the river and the country as a whole,” Mallet said. (IANS)
At one time, he was the poster boy of Indian politics. Not only did he slay the villain of Bihar’s “jungle raj” in 2005 by rounding up lawless elements after winning an election and launching social and economic development projects, he also scored another resounding electoral victory in the company of a new set of friends, including the “villain”, in 2015.
It appeared at the time that he could do no wrong. So much so that he was seen as a possible prime ministerial candidate of the “secular” front.
But, then, the rise and rise of Nitish Kumar came to an abrupt halt. He remains Bihar’s Chief Minister, but the halo round his head has frayed.
The reason is not only his switching of friends in what is seen as an exercise in crass opportunism, but also his pursuit of policies which are out of sync with the modern world and threatens to reinforce Bihar’s reputation for backwardness by turning the entire state into a virtual dehat or village.
The first step in this bucolic direction was the imposition of prohibition which has robbed Bihar’s clubs, hotels and intellectual watering holes of cosmopolitanism. Now, Nitish Kumar has taken yet another step backwards by demanding 50 per cent reservations for the backward castes in the private sector.
To begin with the second step, it is obvious that by threatening to take the quota system to such an absurd level, the Chief Minister has scotched any hope of industrial growth in a state which is crying out for investment.
In 2012, Bihar received investment proposals worth Rs 24,000 crore. In the post-liquor ban period, they have dropped to Rs 6,500 crore.
If his new ally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had any hope, therefore, of making Bihar the beneficiary of his Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas goals, he can bid it goodbye.
Nitish Kumar’s latest pitch in favour of the backward castes is all the more strange because he cannot seriously expect that his proposal will pass muster at the judicial level.
Like most Indian politicians, he is more interested in posing as a champion of whichever group he is courting at a given moment than in adopting measures which have a reasonable chance of success.
He merely wants to impress his targeted audience by showing that he did make an honest effort, but was stymied by the “system”.
Whether it is prohibition or reservations, Nitish Kumar’s ploys tend to underline crafty political manoeuvres rather than any genuine intention of acting in the state’s interest.
Unfortunately for the Janata Dal (United) leader, his gambits are too palpable to deceive anyone. In the case of the reservations, it is clear that Nitish Kumar is still battling his old adversary-cum-ally-cum-adversary, Lalu Prasad Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
Since Nitish Kumar belongs to a numerically small and politically less influential caste — the Kurmis — than the RJD’s powerful Yadavs, he has never been at ease in Lalu Prasad’s company whether at the time of their camaraderie during Jayaprakash Narayan’s anti-Congress movement or when they were a part of the state government after the 2015 election victory.
The focal point of Nitish Kumar’s political career has been to establish himself as the foremost leader in the state. Lalu Prasad’s conviction in the fodder scam case enabled Nitish Kumar to be the No. 1 in the Janata Dal (United)-RJD-Congress government.
But he appeared to be forever looking over his shoulder to check whether he was being undermined by the RJD which has more MLAs than the Janata Dal (United).
Prohibition was the policy which he embraced to win over the lower middle class and rural women to his side. But, predictably, the liquor ban has led to an increase in drug abuse with 25 per cent of the cases in de-addiction centres now dealing with the users of cannabis, inhalants and sedatives.
Unlike prohibition which is not aimed at any caste, the demand for the 50 per cent reservations is intended by Nitish Kumar to bolster his position vis-a-vis Lalu Prasad since both are intent on playing the backward caste card.
It is also a message to his partner in the government, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), about the importance of the quota system for the Chief Minister, especially when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief, Mohan Bhagwat, is in favour of doing away with reservations altogether.
When Bhagwat expressed his views during the 2015 election campaign, the BJP quickly distanced itself from them for fear of losing the backward caste and Dalit votes. Even then, the BJP’s reputation as a brahmin-bania party remains intact. Besides, it is now more focused on playing the nationalist card than on wooing the backward castes.
Nitish Kumar must have thought, therefore, that the time was ripe for him to up the ante on the caste issue if only to let the BJP know that he cannot be marginalised as the BJP has been tending to do since tying the knot with the Janata Dal (United).
But, whatever his intention, Nitish Kumar cannot but be aware that his position is much weaker now than when he was in the “secular” camp. Nor is there any chance that he will regain his earlier status any time in the near future.(IANS)
The festival of Chathh Puja is Celebrated for four days where women fast for 36 hours.
On this festival, God Surya is worshipped for sustaining life on earth and granting Health, Prosperity & Abundance.
Chhath Puja 2017: This year Chhath Puja will be Celebrated from 26 October
Chhath is considered to be an ancient Hindu festival.On Chhath Puja various rituals are performed for Thanksgiving Sun God for sustaining life on earth and granting Health, Prosperity & Abundance.
The word “Chhath” symbolizes the number 6 in Hindi language and the festival begins on the sixth day of the Hindu lunar month of Kartik.The festival continues for four days during which people, especially women, follow diligent rituals including fasting for 36 hours.
Here are 5 interesting facts which you need to know about Chhath Puja:
Chhat Puja is the only Vedic Festival of India: Chhath Puja is considered to be one of the most ancient festivals of India surviving on earth.This puja first finds mention in the Rig Veda which contains hymns worshiping the Sun God and describes similar rituals.
The rituals performed during Chhath have scientific reasons: Rituals in Chhath Puja increases absorption and conduction of solar-bio-electricity in a human body. The processes and the rituals of the Chhath puja aim at preparing the body and the mind of the devotee for the process of cosmic solar energy infusion.
Four days rituals are designed in such a way that it benefits the health of the devotee: During the Puja, standing in the river Ganges allows the absorption of energy from the sun which moves along the spine and cleanses the body. This helps in better functioning of the body and calms down the mental state of the devotee. It reduces anger and negativity from the life of the devotee.
Worshipping Sun God on Chhath is prevalent in the ancient Egyptian and Babylonian civilizations of the world: Chhath puja has its international significance as it also celebrated in other countries like Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago etc. as a part of their own traditions & customs.
Chhath Puja hails back to the time of the Mahabharata: Draupati is also considered to be the devotee of Sun God apart from Karna. Due to her devotion toward Surya, she was gifted with the unique power to cure even the deadliest diseases. Through this power gifted by her, Pandavas survived and won the Kurukshetra Battle over Kauravas and regained their kingdom back.