Chatt Puja in Bihar

I Participate In My Family’s Traditions, No Matter How Outlandish They May Seem

These traditions have helped me define myself.

Ipsita
Ipsita
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A cold shower at five in the morning tops the list of my least favorite activities, but it has always been a must during puja season. The annual Chhat Puja, one of the oldest traditions of India, requires all family members to be present when worshipping the Sun. Because it is one the of most important Hindu festivals in the state of Bihar, both my parents, both natives of Bihar, celebrate it with unmatched zeal.

Chhat is one of the most amazing festivals that I have been a part of, and being from India, I have witnessed a lot of festivals. Celebration time brings together the entire family in the tiny village of Bihar. By entire family, I mean every person that I share even a percentage of my DNA with. Each year thousands gather at the riverside to sing and dance. Empty grounds are transformed into socio-economic hubs--from hundreds of hawkers selling colorful bangles to traders selling electronics. Everyone comes together to acknowledge their origin. It's Bihar's Christmastime!

But why do we worship the Sun? Apparently, for taking care of every living being. It turns out, Chhat isn't just an annual attempt of the people to please the Sun God, rather it is to thank him for making life possible on Earth. As an 11-year-old, who had been taught that the Sun was nothing but a sphere of gases, I found this celebration rather bizarre. How could a random gas ball be controlling my life like that? So the next time I have a midterm, maybe I should just blow up some balloons and hope that these "gas balls" get me an A.

A significant part of Chhat involves men and women standing in knee-deep waters, offering flowers and praying to the setting sun on the last day of the festival. As I stood there watching my parents embrace the transient nature of daylight and everything else in the world, I realized that these traditions that initially seemed strange weren't actually all that foreign. Over the years, I have found a connection between science and religion, convincing myself that I am thanking the Sun for supporting life on Earth, for the Sunlight, that helps Photosynthesis, for the warmth and for the energy. I guess it's not all that bizarre. It may sound weird, but I enjoy believing it.

As my interest in Bihar's traditions grew, so did my participation. I would listen closely to what the priest would say, take note of the "offerings" my grandmother was making and watch with amazement as the boys jumped into the cold, rushing river.

It amazes me to think that there is only a small group of people in the world who practice this interesting tradition and that I am a part of that group. Being someone who is still in the process of defining myself, participating in Chhat gives me a sense of belonging. These traditions have become a unique part of who I am.

When I think of home, I don't think of a concrete structure. I think of my family, our festivals and our beliefs, which is why I choose to hold on to these beliefs, no matter how outlandish they may seem.

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To The Dad Who Didn't Want Me, It's Mutual Now

Thank you for leaving me because I am happy.
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Thank you, for leaving me.

Thank you, for leaving me when I was little.

Thank you, for not putting me through the pain of watching you leave.

Thank you, for leaving me with the best mother a daughter could ask for.

I no longer resent you. I no longer feel anger towards you. I wondered for so long who I was. I thought that because I didn't know half of my blood that I was somehow missing something. I thought that who you were defined me. I was wrong. I am my own person. I am strong and capable and you have nothing to do with that. So thank you for leaving me.

In my most vulnerable of times, I struggled with the fact that you didn't want me. You could have watched me grow into the person that I have become, but you didn't. You had a choice to be in my life. I thought that the fact that my own father didn't want me spoke to my own worth. I was wrong. I am so worthy. I am deserving, and you have nothing to do with that. So thank you for leaving me.

You have missed so much. From my first dance to my first day of college, and you'll continue to miss everything. You won't see me graduate, you won't walk me down the aisle, and you won't get to see me follow my dreams. You'll never get that back, but I don't care anymore. What I have been through, and the struggles that I have faced have brought me to where I am today, and I can't complain. I go to a beautiful school, I have the best of friends, I have an amazing family, and that's all I really need.

Whoever you are, I hope you read this. I hope you understand that you have missed out on one of the best opportunities in your life. I could've been your daughter. I could have been your little girl. Now I am neither, nor will I ever be.

So thank you for leaving me because I am happy. I understand my self-worth, and I understand that you don't define me. You have made me stronger. You have helped make me who I am without even knowing it.

So, thank you for leaving me.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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I Want My School To Be As Diverse As Their Advertisements Claim They Are

Several campuses pride themselves on a wide range of individuals who attend their institutions, but what is the reality versus the things we see?

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When deciding on a college I wanted to know what I was going to be getting myself into for 4 years. I watched so many videos of Boise State Universities campus to find out what I had to look forward to. I was from a smaller town in Southern California so I was very used to the amount of diversity in my school and basically whole life at that point. I am a White Mexican-American female and while growing up in my city, I was a part of the minority of white individuals. I always wanted a campus who would represent me, or I could see myself at. I looked at so many ads before I did a campus tour and looked at stacks of brochures scattered across my room with my sister. I saw people who looked like the friends I had throughout my life, my family, and most importantly myself.

I took two tours of the campus and noticed that there was a lack of the people I saw on the brochures on the actual campus and city. I walked around only really seeing individuals who were white. I drove the 14 hours back home and continued to think about how I didn't see the diversity that was advertised in everything I saw from the university. It wasn't until the big move-in day that I realized the lack of diversity I was experiencing in the staff and the individuals I shared classrooms with. When you check the university's website you can see the numbers and the lack of diversity.

  • American Indian/Alaska Native — <1% (118)
  • Asian — 2% (595)
  • Black/African American — 2% (425)
  • Hispanic/Latino — 13% (3,243)
  • Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander — <1% (121)
  • Not Reported — 4% (914)
  • Two or More Races — 4% (1.079)
  • White — 73% (18,612)
  • Nonresident (International) — 2% (433)

The numbers I was seeing wasn't matching the things I was seeing around, and it wasn't until I conducted my own research and interviews with my peers that I noticed that I wasn't the only individual that was craving more diversity on campus. Other students wanted to more people who were like them around campus. Boise State University is not the only campus that will push diversity when its really to only meet their quota. Students who transferred from Arizona State University also mentioned to me that they face similar issues and feelings around diversity from their campus. I want to bring the topic of diversity to many of the student organizations on campus to help our voice be heard for a want for a more diverse campus.

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