There is a section of people who ridicule Hindu Dharma for its caste system. They do that because they are largely ignorant of a mega-festival of Chhat Puja which has infringed all the hindrances of caste, creed, race, gender and region.
The festival which is not a Parva (festival) anymore but rather it has got the prefix Mahaparva (a mega festival) which is widely used to acknowledge it. From the banks of holy Ganges in a remote village of Patna to the banks of the historical Potomac river in the USA, this festival has granted people with a grand get-together for which they wait for a full year.
Way before PM Narendra Modi transmuted cleanliness into an awe-inspiring mass movement, there existed and still endures a short-term Swachhta Abhiyan which begins as soon as the Diwali hangover gets over.
Few days before the commencement of the festival scores of people flock to the Ghats to clean all the garbage there and provide them with the polished looks. The ghats are then decorated by the locals with flowers and the banana leaves. With the growing popularity of the Chhath, local administrations have also become aware and provide assistance in cleaning the banks of the rivers, ponds and reservoirs which see a celebration of this festival on their banks.
Those who are far from the ground reality and see every vicious incident with the angle of caste-related violence should at least once in their lifetime pay their visit to Chhath ghats on the evening of Surya Shashthi (6th day of the Kartik month in a Hindu calendar year).
People from various castes and regions gather there with their respective Dalas (a term for big and wide baskets) filled with numerous Prasads which generally include Thekua, sugarcane, lemons and other fruits and sweets.
The rituals of the evening primarily include offering Prasad to the setting Sun. Rising Sun is worshipped everywhere but nowhere in the world in any other religion, there is any reference or ritual of paying reverence to the setting sun. The beauty of the Chhath festival is that after the accomplishment of the rituals on the Saptami morning, anyone can take Prasad from the basket of anyone. They share the Prasad among each other without asking about caste and identity of the other person even if he/she is a complete stranger.
If one presumes that the rituals of the Chhath festival is performed only by the women, then you are thoroughly wrong. When you visit the Chhath ghats then you would find many men clad in coloured Dhotis carrying out the rituals. The Chhath festival starts with Nahay-Khay followed by Kharna & two days of paying respect to the setting & rising sun.
History of the Chhath or Sun worship goes back to the Ramayana period when Mata Sita had performed the Chhath with fasting and sun worship. The legend is that after killing the demon Ravana, Ram was cursed with the sin of brahm-hatya (killing a Brahmin) and as instructed by sages he performed the procedures of the atonement in the present Munger district of Bihar.
There is a temple named Sita Charan which is believed to be the place where Maa Sita performed the Chhath Pooja.
चम्पारण से. हमेशा राइट. भारतीय इतिहास, राजनीति और संस्कृति की समझ. बीआईटी मेसरा से कंप्यूटर साइंस में स्नातक.