Chhath Puja is an ancient Hindu Vedic festival celebrated in Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh as well as the Madhesh region of Nepal.
Chhath Puja 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. It is the only Vedic festival that is dedicated to the Sun God, who is supposed to be the source of all powers and Chhathi Maiya (another name for Goddess Usha). The god of light, energy and life force is worshipped in order to promote well being, development and the prosperity of human beings. People aim towards thanking the Sun God for a period of four days through this festival. The devotees who observe the fast during this festival are called Vrati.
Traditionally, this festival is celebrated twice a year, once in the summers and the second time during the winters. The Karthik Chhath is celebrated during the month of October or November on the 6th Day after Diwali. It is also celebrated during the summers and that is commonly known as Chaiti Chhath. This is celebrated a few days after Holi. The Chhath Puja is being celebrated over four days this year, from 31st October to 3 November. Surya Shashthi is the main day that is falling on 3 November.
Significane of Chhath Puja:
The meaning of the word Chhath is six in Nepali or Hindi Language and as this festival is celebrated on the sixth day of the month of Karthika, the festival is named the same. In ancient time the rishis 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.
Apart from these religious significance, there are a lot of scientific facts attached to these rituals. The devotees generally pray at the riverbank during sunrise or sunset. It scientifically signifies that the solar energy has the lowest level of the Ultraviolet radiations during these two timings and it is really beneficial for the body. Following the rituals during this traditional festival will create positivity and helps in detoxifying your mind, soul and body. It helps to remove all the negative energies in your body by adoring the powerful sun.
Celebration of Chhath Puja:
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. 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.
Rituals of Chhath Puja:
The goddess worshiped in chhath Puja is Chhathi Maiya, commonly known as Usha. The rituals are considerably harsher as compared to other Hindu festivals. These include:
On the first day of the Puja, the devotees take a dip in the holy river and cook a proper meal for themselves that include Kaddu Bhaat along with Channa dal. These are usually cooked by using mud or bronze utensils and mango wood over a mud stove. The ladies observing the fast can have only one meal on this day.
Lohanda and Kharna:
On the second day, the devotees observe a fast for the entire day and break it after the sunset. They cook the whole Prasad on their own and break their fast with this Prasad. The prasad include kheer and chapattis. After eating this prasad they have to fast without water for 36 hours.
On third day they prepare the Prasad at home and then in the evening offer it to the setting sun. Generally, the females wear sarees of turmeric yellow colour while making their offerings. The entire household of the Vratins accompany them to the river bank where they perform this ritual. Many vratins also sing enthusiastic folk songs while offering the prasad.
On the final day, all the devotees go to the riverbank before sunrise to make offerings to the rising sun. This festival ends when the Vratins break their 36 hours fast called Paran. The relatives come over to their house on this day to share the Prasad.
The Chhath Prasad is traditionally prepared with rice, wheat, dry fruits, fresh fruits, nuts, jaggery, coconut and lots of ghee. These are are prepared completely without salt, onion and garlic. Thekua, a cookie made with whole wheat flour is a special part of the Chhath Puja. One must surely try if visiting the place during the festival.