This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (July 2021)
|Type||Cultural, Historical, Religious|
|Significance||To thank Sun for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and fulfilling particular wishes|
|2021 date||8 to 11 November|
Chhath is an ancient Hindu festival historically native to the Indian subcontinent, more specifically, the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and the southern parts of Nepal. It has become popular with the Nepali hilly community in the recent years, thanks to the influence of the southern immigrants. Prayers during Chhath puja are dedicated to the solar deity, Surya, to show gratitude and thankfulness for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes. Chhathi Maiya, the mother goddess and Sun's sister, is worshipped as the Goddess of the festival. It is celebrated six days after Diwali, on the sixth day of the lunar month of Karthika (October–November) in the Hindu calendar Vikram Samvat. The rituals are observed over four days. They include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water (vrata), standing in water, and offering prasad (prayer offerings) and arghya to the setting and rising sun. Some devotees also perform a prostration march as they head for the river banks.
Environmentalists have claimed that the festival of Chhath is one of the most eco-friendly religious festivals. All devotees prepare similar prasada (religious food) and offerings. Although the festival is observed most elaborately in the Madhesh (southern) region of Nepal and the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand, it is also prevalent in areas where the diaspora and migrants from those areas have a presence. It is celebrated in all northern regions and major north Indian urban centers like Delhi . Hundreds of thousands of people celebrate it in Mumbai.
Chhath puja is dedicated to the sun god Surya. The sun is the god visible to every being, is the basis of life of all creatures on earth. Along with the Sun God, Chhathi Maiya is also worshipped on this day. According to Vedic astrology, Chhathi Maiya or Chhathi Mata protects the offspring and provides longevity to them.
In the Hindu religion, the Shashthi Devi has also been known as Manas, the daughter of Brahma. In the Puranas, she is also said to be the mother Katyayani, who is worshipped on Navratri on the Shashti date. Shashthi Devi is said to be Chhath Maiya in the local language of Bihar.
As per legends, Chhath Puja is being performed from the early Vedic period by sages who would fast for days and perform the puja with mantras from Rigveda. It is believed that Chhath Puja was also performed by Karna, the son of Lord Surya and the king of Anga Desh, which is the modern-day Bhagalpur in Bihar. According to another legend, Pandavas and Draupadi also performed the Puja to overcome obstacles in their lives and gain their lost kingdom. For the people from Bihar and other close by areas, Chhath Puja is considered as Mahaparva.
- Chaitra Chhath - Distinctly known as "Chaiti Chhath", this is observed in the Chaitra month of Vikram Samvat.
- Kartik Chhath - Popularly called "Chhath", this is celebrated at a very large scale in the Kartika month of Vikram Samvat.
Chhath Puja is a folk festival that lasts four days. It starts with Kartik Shukla Chaturthi and ends with Kartik Shukla Saptami.
Nahaye Khaye (Day 1)
This is the first day of Chhath Puja. This means that after bathing, the house is cleaned and food after keeping it in front of God is eaten to protect the mind from vengeful tendencies.
Rasiaav-Roti/Kharna/Lohanda (Day 2)
Rasiaav-Roti is the second day of Chhath Puja. On this day, the devotees are not allowed to drink even a single drop of water. In the evening, they can eat gur ki kheer (Kheer made up of jaggery) called as Rasiaav, fruits, and chapati.
Sandhya Arghya (Day 3)
On the third day of Chhath puja, an arghya is offered to the Sun God during the Kartik Shukla Shashthi. In the evening, a bamboo basket is decorated with fruits, thekua and rice laddus, after which devotees offer an arghya to the sun with their families. At the time of arghya, water and milk is offered to Sun God and the Chhathi Maiya is worshipped from a soop filled with prasad. After the worship of Sun God, Shashthi Devi songs are sung in the night and the vrat katha is heard.
This day is spent preparing the prasad (offerings) at home. On the eve of this day, the entire household accompanies the vratins to a riverbank, pond, or a common large water body to make the offerings (Arghya) to the setting sun. It is during this phase of Chhath Puja that the devotees offer prayers to the just setting sun. The occasion is almost a carnival. Besides the Vratins, there are friends and family, and numerous participants and onlookers, all willing to help and receive the blessings of the worshipper. The folk songs are sung on the evening of Chhath.
After returning from ghat to home the vratins perform the ritual of kosi bharai. In this ritual the vratis, along with other family members, perform all the rituals regarding kosi bharai. They take 5 to 7 sugarcanes and tie them together to form mandap and beneath the shade of that mandap 12 to 24 earthen lamps are burnt and offerings like thekua and other seasonal fruits are offered. The same ritual is repeated in the ghat the next morning between 3:00 am to 4:00 am and afterward the vratis offer arghya or offerings to the rising sun.
Usha Arghya (Day 4)
On the last day of Chhath puja in the morning, an arghya is offered to the Sun God. On this day, before sunrise, the devotees have to go to the riverbank to offer an arghya to the rising sun. After this, the protection of the child and the happiness of the entire family is sought from Chhatti maiyya for peace. After worship, devotees drink sharbat and raw milk, and eat a little prasad in order to break one's fast which is called Paran or Parana.
Rituals and traditions
The main worshippers, called parvaitin (from Sanskrit parv, meaning "occasion" or "festival"), are usually women. However, many 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 offspring. In some communities, once a family member starts performing Chhath Puja, it is their compulsory 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. If the person stops performing the ritual on any particular year, it stops permanently and one cannot resume it. In other communities, this is not mandatory.
Chhath Puja is a four-day event. Entire house, its surrounding and pathways to the Ghaat is thoroughly cleaned. It starts with:
- Kaddu Bhaat or Nahai Khai - The Parvaitin cooks the most Satvik Kaddu Bhaat (Bottle Gourd and Bengal Gram Lentil preparation with Arva Rice Bhaat) This preparation is served to the deity in the afternoon as Bhog. This initiates the parv and is the last meal of the Parvaitin during Chhath Puja
- Kharna - This is observed the next day of Kaddu Bhaat or on the eve of Pahli Arag (Arghya). The preparation starts in the afternoon. Parvaitin Cooks a Rice and Jaggery Kheer with Dosti Poori, other seasonal fruits and dry fruits as also offered to the deity as naivedya (bhoga)
- Pahli Arag
- Dusri Arag
The prasad offerings include sweets, Kheer, Thekua 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 or garlic. Emphasis is put on maintaining the purity of the food.
Vidhi; get all the samagri before the Chhath puja and offer an arghya to Sun God:
- 1 large bamboo basket, 3 soop made of bamboo or brass, plate, milk and glass
- Rice, red vermilion, lamp, coconut, turmeric, sugarcane, suthani, vegetable, and sweet potato
- Pear, big lemons, honey, paan, whole herd, caravans, camphor, sandalwood, and dessert
- As prasad, take thekua, malpua, kheer-puri, semolina pudding, rice ladoos.
Arghya Vidhi— Place the above Chhath puja samagri in the bamboo basket. Put the whole prasad in soop and burn the lamp in the soop. Then, all the women stand in knee-deep water with traditional soop in their hands to offer an arghya to the sun.
History and associated legends
The Chhathi Maiya is worshipped on the Chhath festival, which is also mentioned in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana. According to a legend, King Priyavrat, son of First Manu Swayambhu, had no children. Because of this, he used to be very sad. Maharishi Kashyap asked him to do a yajna. According to Maharishis orders, he performed a yajna for a son. After this, Queen Malini gave birth to a son but unfortunately, the baby was born dead. King and other family members were very sad because of this. Only then a craft seen in the sky, where Mata Shashthi was sitting. When the king prayed to her, then she introduced herself and said that - I am the manas daughter of Lord Brahma, Shashthi Devi. I protect all the children of the world and give the blessings of children to all childless parents.
After this, Goddess blessed the lifeless child with her hands, so that he was alive. The king was very pleased with the grace of the Goddess and he worshipped the goddess Shashthi Devi. It is believed that after this puja, this festival is celebrated worldwide.
Chhath is a Vedic ritual dedicated to Hindu solar deity Surya, and goddess Shashthi (also called Chhathi Maiyya). It has also been mentioned in both the major Indian epics - In Ramayana, when Rama and Sita returned Ayodhya, then people celebrated Deepawali, and on its sixth day Ramrajya was established. On this day Rama and Sita kept fast and Surya Shashthi/Chhath Puja was performed by Sita. Hence, she was blessed with Luv and Kush as their sons. While in the Mahabharata, Chhath Puja was performed by Kunti after they escaped from Lakshagrih.
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