We have commonly observed a choti or shikha i.e. the tuft of hair, prominent among the Sanatan Dharma. The Shastras declare that any religious rite such as a yagna or homa is fruitless without a shikha (Katyayan Smruti). When the Gurukul system of education prevailed, the pupil was eligible to study only after having a shikha.
All the religious act should be performed after tying the tuft but only the funeral and death anniversaries are performed with tuft untied or with dishevelled hair. It is very inauspicious to remain with dishevelled hair. It is done only diin times of great sorrow or calamity. Like Draupadi took an oath in the assembly of the Kurus when she was molested by Dussasana that she would remain with dishevelled hair until the enemies were properly revenged. Also, Kaikeyi remained with dishevelled hair in her apartment with the object of getting two boons from Dasaratha which were detrimental to the interests of Rama, the favourite of Dasaratha.
Significance of ‘choti’ or ‘shikha’:
- There is a common belief that a choti allows the almighty to pull us easily from this ‘material world’ as it is the nexus of all nerves.
- The Brahmarandhra is the seventh chakra (also known as the Sahasrara chakra), the highest one in the human body which represents a thousand- petaled lotus.
- It is considered the seat of wisdom and the knotted shikha protects this spot.
- When the fully enlightened being attain jeevan mukti or salvation, the soul is said to depart the human body from this chakra.
- The knotted shikha helps boost this center and conserve its subtle energy known as ojas.
- Sun i.e. the primary source of clean energy, when falls on the rest of the head is soaked by the brain and helps in reviving the body and soul energy.
The ultimate way to offer thanks to the ultimate source of energy ‘Surya Devta’ is a unique festival in this incredible India. Chhath is no more a regional festival of Biharis and Terai region Hindus, but is widely accepted by hilly origins and almost throughout India. Let us explore this Hindu thanks giving ceremony to God Sun.
- The auspicious tradition of Chhath puja was initiated by son of Surya, Karan who ruled over the Anga Desh (Munger district of Bihar) during the time of Mahabharata.
- Lord Rama and Mata Sita offered special prayers to lord Sun ad fasted after returning to Ayodhya from exile and begin the ritual of celebrating Chhath puja.
- The special powers were bestowed to Draupadi by Surya devta, which helped the Pandavas to regain back their kingdom of Hastinapur.
- To receive immense blessings and prosperity from Surya, Chhath is celebrated lively for four days period during the Hindu month of Kartik.
- First day is Nahai Khai i.e. ‘Nahai’ means ‘bathing’ and ‘Khai’ means ‘to eat’; the devotees take a holy dip in river or lake and holy water is taken at home to cook prasadam (offering food).
- The second day is Kharna, on which the worshippers perform ‘nirjalahaar’ vrat for about 8 to 12 hours. By the end of the day, the fast is eneded by adoring lord Sun and eating Prasad. Then another 36 hours fast is begins.
- The third day is the main festival of Chhath called Sandhya Argha. The devotees clad themselves in yellow coloured attire and offer the specially prepared food offerings to Surya Devta at the riverbank in the evening.
- The last day is Suryodaya Argha on which the devotees gives the early morning offerings at the riverbank and break their fast by having Chhath Prasad.
- This festival is a morning and evening affair on all the four days as the sunrise and sunset rays are most beneficial for human body and consists of low intensity of ultra violet rays.
- The traditional festival of Chhath showers you with positivity by detoxifying the mind, soul and body; and removes the negative energies by adoring the powerful Sun.
Contributed By: Meenakshi Ahuja
The more we know about it, the greater it raises the curiosity within us to explore and analyse it further. The greatest epic in history, Mahabharat is an epitome of longest text that highlights the controversial politics, sibling rivalry, hegemony over women and power along with the increase in ‘adhrama’. Despite all this, the relevance of the epic, has still not lost its essence and is an inspiration for all. Apart from the widely known stories, till date the scholars discover the hidden secrets and unravel new mysteries as they comprehend the epic.
• ‘Ganga putra’ Devavratha (Bhishma) was the eighth son who had been known for his principles and vows towards his kingdom. His vow of bachelorhood became the reason for the agony of Amba, who wanted to seek revenge for the denial of her proposal. Lord Subramanya appeared with the fresh garland of lotuses and it was said that whosoever would accept that garland would turn into an enemy of Bhishma. Later, when Amba came in her next life as the daughter of King Drupad, she wore this garland playfully as a child, but later she became the reason of his death in the form of Shikhandi.
• Prabhasa (Vasu) was cursed by Vashishta to be born in the human world, as during one of the journeys Prabhasa’s wife insisted him to bring Vashishta’s cow. This made Vashishta angry and he cursed Prabhasa, so he was born as the eighth son of Ganga and Shantanu named, Devavratha.
Strengths and weakness of Bhishma:
Bhishma, known for his valour and principles driven life, sacrificed his entire journey for the benefit of Hastinapur. Bhishma refers to someone ‘who takes a difficult vow’ and his duty as a son and further as a brother, father and grand-father are quite known to us. In spite of his courage and dutiful attitude, these qualities became his weakness too, as many times even when he knew that he was favouring the wrong side, still he carried on to do so because of his vows and value system.
• He took away the three daughters of the King of Kashi for his younger brother Vichitravirya, but when he came to know about Amba’s love for someone else, he dropped her back to his father’s palace, which was indeed an act of disrespect. Her lover refused to marry her due to Bhishma. Bhishma couldn’t undo the promise, made to Satyavati’s father, of remaining a bachelor throughout his life so he denied the marriage proposal too.
• His subservience towards the throne of Hastinapur made him stay numb and helpless during Draupadi’s humiliated disrobing in the court before King Dhritarashtra and everybody else. Bhishma is renowned for his mighty strengths but when it was actually needed to react and use his skills, he chose to be a puppet in the hands of external forces and overlooked the respect of women.
• At times he unintentionally became a part of the evil strategies of Kauravas, as after the 12 years of exile when Pandavas were in their hiding period, he said that “there must be absolute law and order, as well as peace and prosperity prevailing wherever Yudhisthira stayed”. This gave an immediate clue to the evil Duryodhan and his skepticism made him reach King Virat’s kingdom. By keeping the gun on Bhishma’s shoulder, the Kauravas once again invoked King Virat to fight by snatching away his herd of cattle.
• Bhishma was aware of the wrong intentions of Guru Drona against King Drupad, still he welcomed him to his kingdom and later on we saw that Guru used his students for his own selfish motives. This rivalry resulted in the animosity between Hastinapur and Panchal, which lasted till the end.
Thus being an idol son and faithful towards his kingdom, he failed to follow the right path due to his ignorance and old values. Though he was following his words and expected the welfare of his kingdom but ultimately due to his reluctance of not adapting to the change, he could not alter the evil thinking of Kauravas. Being a great warrior, he tried to prevent the war by reconciliation between Pandavas and Kauravas, yet as it was already written, the war was essential for the end of ‘adharma’ and rise of the peaceful and righteous world once again.
Bhishma had to suffer at his death bed as earlier in his 73rd life birth, he injured insects by piercing needles into their body. So at the end Krishna blessed him and freed him from the Karmic cycle of life and death and the curse of Vashishta.
Contributed By: Meenakshi Ahuja