Chaath in Bhojpurians can best be seen at Deo in Aurangabad or Baragaon near Nalanda, noted for their sun temples. Unlike other sun temples in India that faces East, the temple at Deo faces west and during the festival time it is the most crowded place. It is strange to see a Brahmin standing in the river water next to a Harijan ! The festival is more of a sacrifice which entails purificatory preparation. It can be performed by men or women, irrespective to caste or creed. Chaath commences with the end of Deepavali when the house is thoroughly cleaned, family members go in for a holy dip, strict saltless vegetarian menu is observed (even onions and garlic are considered unwanted during the entire festival period), all earthen vessels are reserved for the period only and all possible purity of food is adhered to; clothes have to be unstitched and people sleep on the floor. The person observing the Chaath (known as Parvati) observes dawn to dusk fast which concludes with sweets. This is followed by another fast for 36 hours till the dawn of the final day when puja commences at the river bank much before sunrise. The disciplined parvatis remain in water from late midnight until the ray of dawn streaks the horizons. The river is now flooded with offerings to the sun which is followed by breakfast and distribution among the gatherings.
Makar Sankranti Mela
Famous Makar Sankranti mela is another festival unique to Rajgir in the month of Paus, corresponding to mid January. Devotees make flower offerings to the deities of the temples at Hot springs and bathe in the holy water. Another historic place associated with fifteen day long Makar Sankranti mela is the Mandar hills in Banka district. Puranic legends accounts for a great deluge which witnessed the creation of a Asura that threatened the gods. Vishnu cut off the Asura’s head and piled up the body under the weight of the Mandar hill. The famous panchjanya - the sankh (counch shell) used in the Mahabharat war is believed to have been found here on the hills. Traces, akin to serpent coil can be seen around the hill and it is believed that the snake god offered himself to be used as a rope for churning the ocean to obtain the amrit (nectar).
The rainy month of Sravana when there is danger of death from snake bite, people appease the snake god by offering milk during Nag Panchmi. The prime centre of naga worship is Rajgir and Mahabharata describes this place as the abode of serpents and excavations have revealed numerous objects used in serpent cult. In fact naga worship is wide spread through out India.
The Legend associated with Kaun Hara Ghat
The central venue is the kaun hara (who lost ?) ghat (river bank) which originates from a mythical encounter between the honest gaja elephant) and the shrewd graha (crocodile). The story dates back to the undatable past when the elephant. Jai and the crocodile, Vijai in their previous birth were fraternally related devotees of Lord Vishnu. Once they quarreled amongst themselves over the distribution of proceeds received from a fire sacrifice. Jai, the elder, cursed the younger Vijai for reneging on the promise of equal shares, while Vijaia insisted that each of them were given what they deserved and so there was no question of sharing it. For Vijai, the curse spelled rebirth as a vile crocodile. In retaliation the younger cursed the elder to be reborn as an elephant. When the anger subsided, the two brothers realised thir mistakes but the curses were irrevocable. Later, one Kartik Purnima day when the saintly elephant went to the Gandak river for a bath, the crafty crocodile caught his foot. A fierce battle ensued and finally Lord Vishnu had to hurl his disc to kill the crocodile. The Hariharanatha Temple at Sonepur, housing the images of Vishnu and Shiva, commemorates the temporary thaw in what was otherwise a more or less permanent war between themselves and their supporters.
Other Famous Festivities
Though Bihar is in league with festivals like Holi, Dussehra, Deepavali but chaath puja (6 days after Deepavali) is Bihar’s prime festival honouring the sun god. Unlike the zestful Holi or the expensive Deepavali) Chaath is a festival of prayer and propitiation observed with solemnity. It is an expression of thanks giving and seeking the blessings from the forces of nature, prominent among them being the Sun and river. The belief is that a devotee’s desire is always fulfilled during Chaath. Simultaneously an element of fear is alive among the devotees who dread the punishment for any misdeed during Chaath. The city remains safe during this time when criminals too prefer to be a part of the good.
Source : Bihar.com