Chhanta

The word chhanta is an Indian word, means an act of sprinkling (the water). Its synonymous in Arabic is rashash means to sprinkle, and rashash’tun (pl. rashashat) means an act of sprinkle (of water). Its proper word in Persian is pashidan. It is a sin that defiles man and renders him impure. The chhanta is a symbolic rite in Ismaili tariqah to dissipate the sins or forgiveness. It is also an act of the purity of body, soul and intellect, thus the sanctified water is sprinkled three times on the face of the believers in its rite.

The sprinkling of water has been ritually associated since the rise of human civilization as one of the most natural purifying agents. In Egypt, the Book of Going Forth by Day contains a treatise on the water-sprinkling on newborn children, which was performed to purify them of blemishes acquired in the mother’s womb. Water, especially the Nile’s cold water is believed to have regenerative power, is used to baptize the dead in a ritual, based on the Osiris myth. The ritual bath assures the dead of an afterlife and rids them of blesmishes that may not be taken into the other world. Baptism of the dead is also found among the Mandaens, and similar rites is mentioned on Orphic tablets. In ancient Babylon, a sick was sprinkled water while the priest uttered certain sacred words. In Tencbus, Pondos and Fingos tribes in South Africa, when a child is born, the mother secluded for one month. The father slaughters an ox for getting favour of the spirits. While at home the mother sprinkles water daily to the child, repeating some words for his health. In Fiji, the child’s first bath is made an occasion of a feast called Uvea. The head of child is sprinkled with water. Among Yoruba tribe in Africa, the saint gives the child’s name by spraying water from a vessel which stands under an holy tree. When child is 3 to 4 months old in Mfiote tribe in West Africa, he is sprinkled water in presence of the villagers, then he is named. The same tradition is also found among the Gabun tribe. In Baganda tribe of Congo, the children of two years are brought together. Each mother throws the fragment of unbilical cord which she preserved into bowl of water. If it floats, the child is declared legitimate of water to be sprinkled on his head. In the Pacific religions, according to A New Handbook of Living Religions (ed. John R. Hinnells, London, 1997, p. 558), “Water, the chief purifying agent, was sprinkled on new-born children, bloodstained warriors and those contaminated by sickness or death, in order to free them from tapu (taboo) and make them safe for contact with other people. Priests used a variety of further rituals and chants for healing and divination, protection from sorcery or evil spirits, and for the burial of the dead to ensure their peaceful departure to the spirit-land.”

Among the Persian Zoroasterians, the Day of Hope is festivated on the sixth day of the month of Farvardin. They believe that the portions of happiness are distributed by the fate on that day. People sprinkle water at one another, because some say, the day is consecrated to the guardian angel of water; other said that it is a memory of the purification by water prescribed by emperior Jamshed. Besides, on the 30th of the month of Bahman, the people in Ispahan celebrated the feast of Afrejagan, the pouring and spraying of water (Persian, abriz). Its origin was ascribed to Firoz (d. 484), the Sassanid king of Persia and the grandfather of Chosroes I. In his time the rain failed and Persia suffered from drought. The king in the temple of Adhar-Khura in Fars implored to put an end of the calamity. His prayers were heard and rain fell copiously. In gratitude for this blessing, Firoz built a village and gave it the name of Kamfiruz (the desire of Firoz). People joyfully sprinkled water at each other, which is the main feature of the feast of Afrejagan.

In Sikh religion, the ceremony of baptism is common, known as charan ghawal established by Guru Nanak (1469-1539). In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh (1661-1708), the successor of Guru Nanak had started a ceremony called khande-de-pahul, i.e. water stirred with double-edged sword. When a child has reached 12 to 18 years of age, the pahul or baptism is administered to him in presence of Guru Granth Saheb. Some sugar is mixed in clean water in an iron bowl, which is processed through their different ceremonies. According to Encyclopaedia of Sikh Religion and Culture (New Delhi, 1996, p. 67), “He is next asked to look straight and the amrit (nectar) is sprinkled on his face and eyes, and some of it is given to the candidate to drink from the palm of his hands”

In Hindu, the abhiseka in Sanskrit means sprinkling was once a royal ceremony that was later applied to the consecration of divine images.

The common word baptism among the Christians is derived from the Greek baptein meaning to plunge, immerse or wash. The frequantative form, baptizein however appears much later. It was Saint Paul who first defined the theological and symbolic significance of baptism. Christian baptismal practice is said to have founded on the commandment of Jesus himself to his disciples (Matt. 28:19). Baptism is a fundamental rite of entry into the church community, in which water is sprinkled on the face of the new converts.