Chhath Puja

Chhath is an ancient Hindu Vedic festival celebrated in Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh as well as the Madhesh region of Nepal.

Updated: September 20, 2018

Chhath is an ancient Hindu Vedic festival celebrated in Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh as well as the Madhesh region of Nepal. The Chhath Puja is dedicated to the Sun, the god of energy and of the life-force and his wife Usha to promote well-being, prosperity and progress.
Chhath does not involve any idol worship. This festival is observed by Nepalese and Indian people, along with their diaspora. The rituals of the festival are rigorous and are observed over a period of four days. They include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water, standing in water for long periods of time, and offering prasad and arghya to the setting and rising sun. Some devotees also perform a prostration march as they head for the river banks.
Chhath is the most eco-friendly Hindu festival. Chhath puja is performed on Kartika Shukla Shashthi, which is the sixth day of the month of Kartika in the Vikram Samvat. According to Gregorian English Calendar, the festival falls typically in the month of October or November. It is also celebrated in the month of Chaitra.
The word chhath means sixth in Nepali, Maithili and Bhojpuri languages and the festival is celebrated on the sixth day of the month Kartika of the Hindu luni-solar Bikram Sambat calendar. It is the longest and most important festival after navratri.
The very first day of chhath starts exactly 4 days from Diwali and last for 4 more days. On first day of chhath, people who observe fast take bath at a river or pond and prepare lunch that include rice, dal mixed with pumpkin, made in pure ghee.
The second day that is 5th day from Diwali is known as kharna or kheer- roti. On this day, kheer that is a Indian recipe where rice is prepared with sweetened milk instead of water and chapati or roti is prepared. The people observe fast for the full day without taking even water and eat this kheer-roti as dinner after offering it to the rising moon and Goddess Ganga. This is the only time when they eat or drink anything from the starting of the day till the last day of chhath. The third day of chhath is the main festival day which is exactly 6th day from Diwali. The devotees maintain nirjal vrat( Fast without even taking a drop of water ) on the third day. Devotees go to river bank and offer argha ( offering of fruits and sweets in winnow ) and surya namaskar to the setting sun. This is followed by the next day event of offering argha and surya namaskar to the rising sun on the fourth or last day of chhath. The fast is then come to end after offering argha to rising sun. In this way, nearly 42 hours of strict penance comes to an end.  
The Goddess who is worshiped during the famous Chhath Puja is known as Chhathi Maiya. Chhathi Maiya is known as Usha in the Vedas, the beloved younger wife of the sun god.
The most unique feature about the Chhath Puja is that there is no idol or Murti Pujan. It is belived that Sun is necessary for life of possibly every creature on the earth and this festival is a way to pay tribute to it irrespective of caste, creed, gender and social stigmas. The main worshipers, called Parvaitin are usually women. However, a large number of men also observe this festival as Chhath is not a gender-specific festival. The parvaitin pray for the well-being of their family, and for the prosperity of their offsprings. Once a family starts performing Chhatt Puja, it is their duty to perform it every year and to pass it on to the following generations. The festival is skipped only if there happens to be a death in the family that year. 
The prasad offerings include sweets, Kheer, Thekua, rice laddu and fruits (mainly sugarcane, sweet lime and banana) offered in small bamboo soop winnows. The food is strictly vegetarian and is cooked without salt, onions and garlic.
In ancient time the rishis of yore used this chhath method to remain without any external intake of food as they were able to obtain energy directly from the sun's rays. Another history behind celebrating the Chhath puja is the story of Lord Rama. It is considered that Lord Rama and Sita had kept fast and offer puja to the Lord Sun in the month of Kartika in Shukla Paksh during their coronation after returning to the Ayodhya after 14 years of exile.

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