Chhath Puja: an Honor to Sun God
Dedicated to the Sun and Shashthi Devi (Chhathi Devi), Chhath is a major festival for the people in the Indian States of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand. It is an ancient Hindu Vedic festival in which devotees show gratitude to almighty for giving the bounties of life on earth and accomplishing their wishes.
The word ‘Chhath’ denotes the number six, that is why the festival begins on the sixth day of the Hindu month of ‘Kartik,’ which falls between late October till mid-November, depending on the year.
Types of Chhath Puja
Chaitra Chhath – It is celebrated in the Chaitra month of Vikram Samvat (March-April), according to the Hindu calendar.
Kartik Chhath – It is celebrated in the Kartika month of Vikram Samvat (October-November). During this festival, the celebration revels at an immense scale.
The festival embraces the worship of Chhathi Maiya and Sun God (Surya) along with his wives Usha and Pratyusha (the Vedic Goddess of Dawn and Dusk, respectively). According to Hindu mythology, the main sources of Sun’s energy are his consorts Usha and Pratyusha. During the festivities, there is combined worship of both the powers and the Sun. People offer prayers to the first ray of the Sun, i.e., Usha in the morning and the last ray of the Sun, devoted to Pratyusha in the evening. All the rituals involved are rigorous and extend to four days.
There are strict rituals involved in the Chhath Puja, they include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water (Vratta) for at least 36 hours, standing in water for a longer duration, taking dips into the holy water, offering Prasad and arghya during the sunrise and sunset.
DAY 1: Naha Khay (Bath and Eat)
On this day, the devotee takes a bath in the river (particularly, the holy Ganga) and carry the sacred water to home to prepare Prasad.
DAY 2: Kharna (also referred to as Lohanda or Barauna)
On this day, the devotees keep a long day fast and end it after worshipping Chhathi Maiya in the evening, followed by eating Prasad (offering to the God). The offering generally includes rasiao-kheer (cooked rice in milk), chapattis or puris (deep-fried puffs), and bananas.
DAY 3: Sandhya Arghya (Evening Offering)
The third day is followed by devotees fasting all day long without food and water. The day is spent in preparing offerings like Puri, Thekua, Coconut, Banana, Apple, Orange, and other fruits. A great emphasis is being put on the purity of food and is made without onion, garlic, and salt. They are being kept in Supali (made of fine bamboo sticks), Dauri (a basket made of bamboo sticks), or a metal basket.
In the evening, people with family offer Sandhya Arghya (evening offering) to the Sun God from the banks of the river.
DAY 4: Bihaniya or Bhorwa Ghat (Morning Offering)
On the final day of the festival, the devotees gather on the banks of the river and perform bhorwa arghya (morning offerings) to the rising Sun. Afterward, they knee-down at the ghat to pray to Chhathi Maiya, distribute Prasad, and go back to their homes.
Further, people break their fast by eating ginger with water and take blessings from the elders. After that, different types of delicious foods are made to serve the devotees who were fasting.
It is one of the most beautiful events during the Chhath puja. It is celebrated after the Sandhya Arghya or Sanjhiya Ghaat (day two) in the courtyard of the house. Kosi is usually denoted to the earthen pots or clay lamps, which are kept under the shade of five sugarcane sticks or twenty-four sugarcane sticks tied with a cloth (yellow in color). It is also celebrated on the ghats (river banks) early in the morning on the fourth day.
During the festivities, female folks spend their night by singing traditional Chhath songs, which brings joyous spirit all around.
It is believed that the rituals of Chhath Puja were followed in ancient times due to its mention in prehistoric Vedas, for example, there are hymns mentioned praising the Lord Surya and similar customs in the Rigveda. As per the Sanskrit Epic poem of Mahabharata, Draupadi is also described as observing the same rituals and traditions. Even more, the Pandavas, who were the rulers of Indraprastha and Draupadi, carried out the ceremonies involved in the Chhath Puja on the advice of noble sage Dhaumya. Later, the fact that Draupadi’s troubles got resolved and Pandavas regained their lost kingdom was all due to the devotion towards Lord Surya (Sun).
The scientific or yogic history of Chhath Puja dates back to the Vedic times as well. Long-time ago, the rishis employed this method to remain alive without any food consumption and were able to gain energy from the sunlight. This was done through the customs of the Chhath Puja.
Moreover, the significance of Chhath Puja is also reflected in the Ramayana (the tale of Lord Rama). During the time of Lord Rama’s enthroning (after returning to Ayodhya from their exile of 14 years), both Rama and Sita had kept fast together and offered prayers to the God Sun in the month of Kartik. As a result, Mata Sita was blessed with two sons, Luv and Kush. Since then, Chhath Puja became a significant and traditional festival in the Hindu religion and is celebrated in the month of Kartik by Hindus.
Legend of Chhath Puja
In the times of yore, there was a king named Priyabrat and his consort Malini who were leading a happy married life but had no child. So, they decided to organize a Maha-Yagya with the help of legendary Maharishi Kashyap. The effects of the Yagya led in the pregnancy of Queen Malini, but she delivered a dead child after nine months. This caused great misery to the king, and he even decided to commit suicide. All of a sudden, the Manas Kanya ‘Devsena’ appeared and stated, “I am Goddess Shashti, and I’m an incarnation of the sixth part of the universe. If you worship me with pure mind and soul for six days, you would certainly be blessed with a child.” The king and her wife followed her and later welcomed a beautiful baby boy. This created a huge significance, and people started worshipping Goddess Shashti (Chhathi Maiya) since then.
Regional Names of Chhath
- Chhath Puja
- Chhathi Puja
- Chhathi Maiya puja
- Dala Chhath
- Katiki Chhath
- Dala Puja
- Chaiti Chhath
- Surya Sasthi
- Kartik Chhath
- Chaitra Chhath
- Ravi Sasthi
The festival of Chhath is celebrated with full gusto in Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and the southern region of Nepal. It is observed in all Northern regions and major Northern urban areas in India. Even environmentalists called the festival of Chhath as the most eco-friendly Hindu festival.