Cheti Chand is the New Year of the Sindhi, celebrated in India as well as in Pakistan. It is celebrated as a token of honor and commemoration of the birth of the Saint Uderolal, the Sindhi Patron popularly known as Saint Jhulelal.
Cheti Chand falls on the second day of the month of Chaitra. Chaitra is the first month of the Hindu Calendar, which begins on the day next to the new moon day. The first day of the waxing moon is celebrated as Hindu Nav Varsh across many communities in India. To name a few, Navreh in Kashmir, Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Chaitti in Himachal Pradesh, Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra, Nobo Borsho in West Bengal, Vishu in Kerala, Baisakhi in Punjab, Rongali Bihu in Assam etc. Literally, Sindhi New Year is celebrated on the next day after the Vikram Samvat Hindu New Year.
In the year 2016, Cheti Chand falls on 9th April.
What is Cheti Chand?
Cheti stands for Chaitra month and Chand meaning moon represents the moon that can be seen after the no moon day in Chaitra month. Of course, New Year also marks the birth of the Saint Jhulelal.
While it is celebrated as the Sindhi New Year day, Cheti Chand is also considered auspicious and celebrated with the same zeal to admire and worship the Sindhi Guru. Sindhis, who live across the world, celebrate this day with unmatched enthusiasm. They also worship an important element of life, a crucial element that supports all life on this earth, and that is ‘Water.’ Yes, water is also worshipped on Cheti Chand by Sindhis. After all, water is the elixir of life.
Legend associated with Cheti Chand
During the tenth century, when the kingdom of Arabs was won over by the Soomras, Mirkh Shah, who ruled Thatta, ordered all Hindus to convert into Islam. Unable to follow the order of the king, Hindus requested Shah to offer them a few days to convey their decision. Shah gave them 40 days to think about it.
All Hindus gathered on the banks of the river Sindhu and pleaded the rain god Varuna to help them and save from converting into Islam. The prayer continued incessantly, all day, every day for 40 days. They did not change clothes, did not shave, did not use any oil or other things, but only prayed to the rain god.
Pleased by the prayers of the devotees, they heard a holy voice on the 40th day. The voice showered the pacifying words, “Fear not, I shall save you from the wicked Mirkh Shah. I shall come down as a mortal and take birth in the womb of Mata Devaki in the house of Rattan Rao Luhana of Nasarpur” which made Hindus to rejoice.
After a few months, the devotees heard that a woman named Devaki had conceived. Mirkh Shah was surprised by the divine voice about the birth of savior. However, he lost his patience and ordered Hindus to choose from any option, either choose Islam or die. However, the confident devotees requested the king to wait for a few more months till the birth of their savior.
Mirkh Shah believed that there would be no savior to the Hindus and he would force the baby to accept Islam.
As promised to the devotees by rain god, Saint Jhulelal took birth as the son of Mata Devaki and was named Udaichand. He was born on the second day in the month of Chaitra.
While Mirkh Shah heard about the birth of the savior child, he decided to let the child prove the mysterious power for saving Hindus.
The baby looked charming and glorious. He had a divine look. As the child grew, people developed strong beliefs that Udaichand was born to save them.
In fact, Udaichand did not favor any religion and did not oppose Islam. He appeared before the king and explained him to create unity of god by uniting Hinduism and Islam. He said, ‘everything around us is created by the supreme power god. It can be your Allah or Ishwar of the Hindus; the humans are created by the god!’ Shah was not convinced by his ideals and arrested him.
Being a child, born as a savoir with mystical power, when Udaichand was arrested, people witnessed the oodles of waves creating a flood and fire breaking out mysteriously, damaging the palace.
Amidst these natural calamities, Udaichand remained composed and explained to the king that all Gods are same and what people need is nothing but peace.
Mirkh Shah, terrified by the flood and fire, pleaded to the boy. He also realized the power of Udaichand. Upon requesting for mercy, the water and flames went off. Udaichand who saved the lives of the people was worshipped as Jhulelal, as a savoir and a saint, by both Muslims and Hindus.
Since the Rain God Varuna helped the Sindhis to regain peace in their lives through birth of Saint Jhulelal, Sindhis also worship Water God as a major god.
Saint Jhulelal is worshipped as Istha Devata (Favorite God), by the Sindhis.
How is Cheti Chand celebrated?
Cheti Chand festival is celebrated by Sindhis in a grand manner. The key element of the celebration is a massive colorful procession on the streets. There is one more interesting element of Cheti Chand Festival. This is perhaps the only festival that has a pre-festival known as Chaliha Sahib when Sindhi devotees observe 40 days’ fast during July-August. This is in remembrance of the penance taken by Sindhis to worship God Varun and which resulted in the birth of Sant Jhulelal on the second day of Chaitra month.
Chaliha Sahab festival – 40 days fast
The forty days prayer is still observed by Sindhis during July-August. Many of them don’t shave and change clothes for 40 days. They just wash the clothes and wear them again. They repeat the same ritual for forty days.
Chalia Sahab jo Melo is one of the longest fair held at Chalia Sahib temple in Ulhasnagar, Maharashtra. It is believed that special jyot was brought from Sindh in Pakistan to Ulhasnagar, during partition. Aarti is performed everyday at Chalia Sahib temple. Sindhis from all over the world visit this temple during these 40 days and dip into the holy pond. They also immerse earthen pots ‘Matki’ in water.
The New Year day on Cheti Chand is actually celebrated as ‘Thanks Giving Day’ by the followers of Jhulelal.
Baharana Sahib is nothing but a colorful decorative Pooja thali, typically a bronze plate, decorated beautifully on the auspicious occasions like weddings, purchase of new homes and of course Cheti Chand festival. Behrana Sahib- the holy plate- has the following placed in it:
- Saint Jhulelal’s idol
- A kalash (earthen vessel) filled with water. A coconut is placed on this jar and it is covered with a red cloth
- The kalash is also decorated with flowers and leaves.
- Wheat flour dough is given the shape of a cone, and is decorated with vermillion, cardamom, almonds, cashews and cloves. On top of it, a large piece of refined sugar (Misri) is placed.
- The wheat cone is cone is surrounded with fresh flowers, fruits, scented dhoop, agarbattis, and five diyas.
- Rice and sugar is also placed in Behrana Sahib
The decorated behrana Sahib is then carried on the heads by the devotees. They first cover their head with red cloth and then place the Behrana Sahib on their head. After this they proceed towards a water body dancing and singing divine songs Panjaras also known as Chej
Cheti Chand Procession
- The procession is taken to the river or sea shore. Thousands of people take part in the processions that take place in different cities.
- The procession is vibrant with colorful floats narrating the life of Jhulelal and depicting the traditions and culture of Sindhi community.
- Cheej is a folk dance of Sindhi, which is performed during the procession. Similarly, there are quite a few songs that also form part of this Cheti Chand procession. Followers sing the songs to seek the blessings of their Ishta Devta Jhulelal.
- During the procession, the followers carry the Baharana Sahib with them and immerse it in the lake or river along with Akho rice.
- Akho is a special recipe prepared on this day, using rice and sugar, similar to pudding.
When Uday was a young boy, he was told by his step mother to sell a basket of beans in the market. Instead of selling the beans, he offered half of the beans to the beggars, children, saints and poor people. He offered the container with the remaining half of the beans, to the river Sindhu. Later, he discussed about the spiritual power and wealth with the elderly men. During sunset, the same container emerged from the river and came towards him, which was now filled with rice. This is the major reason why people offer rice to water bodies.
Even educational institutions, social groups and organizations celebrate Cheti Chand lavishly. Businessmen start new business and new accounts of the existing business on this day of Cheti Chand. However, all shops remain closed as Sindhis gather in community halls and engage themselves in procession of Cheti Chand festival.
The rich culture and practices of the Sindhi Community is depicted during Cheti Chand celebration, in the form of music, dance, folk lore, drama and art. The day is celebrated lavishly by Sindhis in Pakistan too.