Chaliya or chaliha or Chaliho is one of the most important Sindhi festivals. Chaliya is a 40-Day Festival Celebrated by Sindhis all over the world. But do you know why is it celebrated?
Chaliya is celebrated on a grand scale at places like Ulhasnagar, Ajmer, Ahmedabad, etc., where there is a large population of Sindhis, and where they have a Big Jhulelal Sai Temple.
Chaliyo Prasad Dono (Photo by Adv Raj Chandwani)
There are many beliefs regarding the origins of the Chaliya Festival. But, one story that is the most prevailing is ...
Once upon a time, there was a Muslim Ruler called Mirkshah, who ruled Sindh. Mirkshah was a very evil person and like many other Arabic Kings, his only aim was to convert everyone to Islam with or without their consent. He just wanted to spread Islam even if it meant torturing people of other religions, especially Hindus.
He used all means to oppress Sindhis or Hindus in Sindh to make them accept Islam. Continuing this barbarism, he gave an ultimatum to all the People of Sindh. He threatened them that all the Sindhis must convert to Islam. If not, he will kill all the men, and forcibly marry the Sindhi women to Muslim Men. He even killed some innocent Sindhis to still the fear in others' minds.
This did create fear in the hearts of Sindhis who were and are the most Peace-Loving people in the world. Some even converted to Islam under tremendous pressure. But as Sindhis are very religious and very strong believers, Mirkshah's fear was not enough to make all of them accept Islam.
Sindhis have a strong sense of community and togetherness from the beginning. So all the Sindhis got together. And decided to do something unitedly, but for this, they needed some time. So they chose some leaders from the community and sent them as representatives to Mirkshah with a proposal. They told Mirkshah that they would consider his order to convert to Islam, but first, he must stop the violence and cruelty of the Sindhi People and give them some time to think about it. Mirkshah Agreed and gave them a few months time.
Now they at least had some time to think about what they could do. The frightened people had no other place to go. They called on Varuna Devta (Jhulelal Sai) for help in this difficult time. Sindhis decided to pray Sai Jhulelal continuously and together as a community. From then on, they prayed Sai Julelal Non-Stop. They did not shave, no one wore new clothes. They observed total self-control and refrained from any kind of enjoyment or luxury. They just prayed and prayed to Sai Jhulelal for help. They prayed collectively for the safety of Sindhis from the hands of Mirkshah.
On the 40th day, their prayers were answered, and they heard a divine voice from the sky. In the Akashwani, Varun Devta assured them that they must not fear. Because their biggest power was their faith in God. And no one will be able to destroy this faith. Varun Devta announced in a divine voice that he would take birth as a child of Mata Devki and Ratanchand Lohano who were strong believers of Varun Devta and lived in the town of Nasarpur. Hearing the Divine Akashvani, the Sindhis were filled with joy. They thanked Varun Devta by singing in his praise for the whole day.
A few days later Mata Devki and Ratanchand Lohano announced that Sai Jhulelal had blessed them with a Son, Dariya Lal. That is why Sai Jhulelal is also referred to as Sai Dariya Shah. Immediately after the birth of Dariya Sai, with divine intervention, Mirakshah was attacked by his enemies from all sides and he became busy fighting with them. Forgetting about Sindhis and their conversion to Islam. Mirkshah lost all his battles.
Soon after that Sai Jhulelal punished Mirkshah for his misdeeds and made him leave Sindh and his palace. He was put on a big ship along with his men and made to run away never to return. Many people who were converted to Islam under pressure, returned to Hinduism. Sai Jhulelal saved thousands of Sindhis from being killed by Mirkshah. Sai Jhule lal also saved Sindhis from losing their religion and becoming Muslims. For This, every sindhi will always be thankful to Sai Jhulelal. Thereafter, Sindhis worshipped Jhulelal as their Ishta dev.
Chaliyo Mega Kitchen Preparing Prasad 'Dono' for Thousands of People
The festival of Chaliya was also started from then, during these 40 days Sindhis observed fasting with full faith and devotion. Those who observe Pakka Chaliya, have to abstain from all the luxuries and need to strictly follow these rules for 40 days:
One has to Sleep on the Floor, not on a Bed
One has to Observe Brahmacharya
They must not eat fried food,
They must not consume Non-vegetarian food,
They should also not consume onion and garlic, white items like milk, curd, rice
They should abstain from shaving, cutting hair, and nails, or using Shampoo and Soap.
They must wear simple clothes and not leather shoes or leather belts.
They must not use tadka in any dish.
Basically, they must live a very simple life devoid of all Luxuries for these 40 days.
On the 40th Day, The Chaliya observers perform Puja by offering Matka or an earthen pot to Dariya Sai i.e. a River. An Akho (raw rice sugar, flowers) is also offered to Dariya Sai. As there are no Rivers nowadays, this pooja is performed at Jhulelal Sai Temples across the world. Chaliya Sahib at Ulhasnagar is one of the biggest temples for the Chaliya festival, Before the COVID-19 pandemic more than 5 Lac People performed pooja and offered Matki or Akha at Chaliya Sahib every year. At the Ulhasnagar Chaliya Sahib, a Dona or Prasad is distributed to the Public. More than 3 Lac Prasad Donas are distributed as prasad every year (Not happening since 2020). This Prasad Dona Consists of Rice, Chole, Puri, a Sweet Dish, and more. This practice has been going on for many decades. Chaliya is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in the Region.
After the Pooja and Matki ritual, they have to wait one more day to return to the normal routine. The Next Day, Palao is performed at the Chaliya Sahib for all Sindhis. A Rice Pulao is also made in large quantities which is distributed in the whole town.
After the Palao the Chaliyo is considered completed, and people can return to their normal Lifestyle. There is a funny side to this, on this day all the Barbers/Saloons are overbooked. And Sindhis being Sindhis, they just can't live without their favorite foods for long. So all the Restaurants and Bars are House Full! ;)
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