Chhath is an ancient Hindu festival, celebrated more specifically by the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, as well as the Madhesh region of Nepal. The festival is also observed in areas where migrants from those areas have a presence and so it is also prevalent in all Northern regions and major northern urban centres in India. While it is a Hindu festival, celebrated by Indians and Nepalese, some Muslims also celebrate Chhath. This festival usually falls in the month of October and November as per the Gregorian calendar. It is also observed in the month of Chaitra.
This year, Chhath Puja is on 13th (sunset) and 14th (sunrise) of November 2018. The four day festival will begin on 11th Nov and end on 14th November.
Chhath Puja does not involve any idol worship and is dedicated to the Sun and his consort Chhati Maiya or his wife Usha, in gratitude for granting life and all its wonders on earth and also to request the granting of certain wishes. During this puja, Chhati Maiya is appealed to bless the worshippers with divine consciousness to help them rise above all the troubles of the world. The rituals associated with this festival are quite severe and demanding and performed over a period of four days. These include fasting, abstaining from drinking water, holy bathing, standing in water for long periods of time and offering Prasad and Arghya to the setting and rising sun. Worshippers are required to fast without even a sip of water for about 36 hrs continuously. Environmentalists claim that Chhath Puja is the most eco-friendly Hindu festival.
The very first day of Chhath commences exactly 4 days from Diwali and lasts for 4 more days. On this day of Nahay Khaye, the people who fast, take bath at a river or pond before eating and prepare a specific type of lunch of rice, chana dal with pumpkin, kheer etc. all prepared in pure ghee. The second day is known as Kharna. People observe a fast for the whole day and break it only after the puja which is done after sunset. A special meal of Kheer (preparation of rice with sweetened milk) and roti/ chapatti is first offered to the Gods and then had by the people who fast on this day. Thereafter a fast, without even water, is to be observed for 36 hours.
The third day of this festival, which is the sixth day from Diwali (and hence the name Chhat, which means sixth in Bhojpuri, Nepali and Maithili languages) is the main day where the faithful observe a rigid fast called ‘nirjal vrath’ (fast without taking even a drop of water). Prasad is prepared at home and then the entire family accompanies the members who fast, to the river bank or pond and make their offerings to the setting sun. This day is celebrated with folk songs and dips in the holy waters of Ganga, Kosi and Karnali. This ritual is referred to as Pehla/ Sandhya Arghya. On the last day, known as Usha/ Doosra/ Paaran Arghya, which is the 4th day of Chhat Puja, devotees go to a water body before sunrise to make their offerings and pray to the rising sun. They end their long fast after this ritual.
The food/ Prasad prepared during Chhath Puja is made with rice, wheat, jaggery, coconut, nuts, fresh fruit, dry fruits and lots of ghee. Ingredients like salt, onion and garlic are completely omitted from this food. The rituals and traditions for this festival can be observed by both men and women, who pray for the wellbeing and prosperity of their family and offsprings. Once a family member starts performing Chhath Puja, it is mandatory for them to perform these rituals every year and pass it on to the next generation, unless there is a death in the family. If for any reason, the puja is not performed in any particular year, it is stopped permanently and cannot be revived or resumed again.
This puja is also backed by science as it is believed that exposing one’s body to the sun helps absorb solar energy which fills you with positivity and detoxifies your body, mind and soul. It helps get rid of all the negative energy and eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses from the body. This puja essentially, celebrates the significance and importance of the Sun, as energy from the Sun is most essential for life of every single living creature on earth.
Picture Credits : Telegraph India