One of the most popular festivals in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand states in India as well as in Nepal, Chhath Puja has sea of devotees worshipping Sun (Surya) and Chhathi Maiya (Goddess Usha – also considered as Sun’s sister).
Surya has always been worshipped in Indian culture for sustaining life. Prayers to Sun God or Surya mark the 4-day festival of Chhath.
Chhath is marked by fasting, abstenance from drinking water and foods. Families gather around riverbanks to offer prayers to the Sun during sunset and sunrise. Holy bathing is a marked feature of this festival.
Chhath comes from the word ‘Chhathi or six in Hindi” and is celebrated 6 days after Diwali. Its also known by other names such as “Surya Shasthi” and “Chhathi”.
How is Chhath celebrated?
Chhath is celebrated over 4 days:
1st day: Nahai Khai
The bathing ritual performed on the first day of the festival is called “Nahai Khai” (Nahai referring to bathing) and Khai (food – post bathing). Women take a dip in the rivers offering prayers to Sun. Lunch is cooked with rice and pumpkin.
Women who fast during this period are also called “Vratins” (Vrat means fast in Hindi). Some women fast without food and water for 4 days eating only during the 2nd night.
2nd day: Kharna
This day of Chhath festival is also known as “Kharna”. The day is marked by the preparation of kheer (rice pudding) and chappati (Indian bread).
3rd day and 4th days
On the 3rd day, offerings are made to the setting sun while prayers to the rising sun are offered on the last day of Chhath.
See Also: Diwali, Festival of Lights
Why is Chhath celebrated?
- Hymns and prayers of worship to Sun has references in RigVeda as well as Mahabharata. In Mahabharata, Sun has several references in the epic with Draupadi having said to have performed this Puja
Lord Rama (Ramayana) is said to have offered prayers to Sun God after returning back to his kingdom post 14 years of his exile.
What’s special about Chhath?
- Chhath is said to be the only festival in India which does not involve priests.
The offerings to Sun God (Surya) is in the form of Kheer (Rice Pudding), Thekua (dry snack made of wheat flour, sugar and sometime ghee) and fruits.
Devotional songs mark this festival with women singing with zeal and fervour. Examples
of devotional songs for can be seen here