India is the land of festivals known for its colourful celebrations. Every festival has its roots dating back centuries and has scientific and mythological significance.
One of the mosta popular festivals celebrated in northern India, predominantly in Bihar, is the Chhath Puja or Surya Shashti.
People pray reverently to the Sun, thanking him for flourishing life on earth and basking us in his life force, without which we would have ceased to exist. Though considered pagan worship, where there are no idols but an ideology to thank nature for its abundance, it is one of the purest forms of nature worship.
The puja is also an example of harmony where men, women, children, elders, and every other segment of society get together to offer their prayers and celebrate the Sun god and his wives for lighting up the lives of millions. People sing folk songs and perform folk dance in colourful attires setting aside differences and embrace the warmth of community living.
The festival is a reminder that one has to live and get along with nature to live life to the fullest.
Chhath Puja, which lasts four days, starts on the sixth day of Karthika month. Each day has its significance and adds more joy to the next.
Chhath Puja -Sunday, November 19, 2023
Given below is the calendar for the Chhath puja 2022.
|28th Oct ’22||Friday||Nahay Khay||Chaturthi|
|29th Oct ’22||Saturday||Lohanda and Kharna||Panchami|
|30th Oct ’22||Sunday||Sandhya Arghya (Chhath)||Shashthi|
|31st Oct ’22||Monday||Usha Arghya||Parana Day Saptami|
Each festival starts with a story written in the two great epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Chhath Puja story goes like this:
The legend of Lord Rama and his consort maata Seetha is well known across lands. The story of Chhath goes thus:
Both return from Lanka to their kingdom Ayodhya after a rigorous exile o 14 years. Exhausted from the sufferings they had to undergo during the last part of exile, being part of the Surya Vamsha or the Sun race, they offer prayers to the Sun god for a peaceful future filled with joy. On the Shashti thithi of Kartika masa, they observe nirjal vrat and break their fast the next day, thus starting the tradition of Chhath puja.
Mahabharata adds another layer of mythological significance to the festival. Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, performed similar rituals on every 6th day of Kartika masa, thus appeasing the Sun to keep them safe on the advice of their guru – rishi Dhaumya. Her sincere prayers helped the Pandavas see through their vanavasa and regain their kingdom.
Some claim that Chhath Puja also has scientific roots because it aids in the body’s detoxification. The flow of solar bio-electricity increases in the body by taking a dip in the river and exposing self to the Sun, which enhances the body’s general functionality. Others claim that Chhath Puja helps people prepare for the approach of winter by removing dangerous bacteria and viruses from their bodies.
Chhath Puja Rituals
Day 1: Nahay Khay
On this day, devotees bathe in water bodies, mainly in the river Ganga. They bring back the Ganges water home and cook a simple Chhath prasad, commonly made using bottle gourd, pumpkin, and Channa dal in the water.
They also dedicate the day to cleaning the house and the compound to prepare for the following days.
Day 2: Lohanda and Kharna
The devotees observe a daylong fast on Panchami and devote the entire day preparing for the celebrations, including purchasing necessities like sugarcane, fruits, and other items. Later in the evening, devotees prepare chapattis and a unique Chhath Prasad called Rasiao-kheer. They offer the prasad to Chhathi Maiya along with fruits, radish, green ginger, betel leaves, and spices like black cardamom and cloves. Following puja, the devotees break their fast by consuming the prasad and sharing it with family and friends.
Day 3: Sandhya Argya
On the third day of Chhath, devotees – mostly women – undergo a strict fast, during which they abstain from water and food. The day begins with preparing the Prasad (offering) for the evening prayers.
In the evening, many devotees gather on the banks of the river to make offerings at sunset and play folk songs that convey the culture and history of Bihar. The same night witnesses a colorful event known as Kosi, where devotees place a lit earth lamp and a basket filled with prasad inside a canopy made of sugarcane stalks.
Day 4: Usha Arghya or Bhorwa Ghat
Prasad offered to the sun god in the morning are called Usha Argya or morning sacrifices. Devotees regroup early in the morning by the river and wait for sunrise. As the Sun rises, they carry morning arghya by entering the water with arghya held in Sauri or Spa, after which the devotees distribute the Prasad among themselves and receive blessings from the elders. After returning from the Ghat, devotees eat ginger and water to break the 36 hour fast. Delicious food called Paran or Parna is then prepared and served to devotees, marking the end of four-day festivities.
We hope the above blog provides a glimpse of Chhath puja and associated rituals. If we have missed mentioning a point here or there that you think is a must include, please drop your comments. We would be glad to learn more.