|Official name||Chhath Puja|
|Liturgical Color||Colors related to Hinduism
Saffron (or Bhagwa)
|Type||Cultural, Historical, Religious|
|Significance||To thank Surya (Sun) for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and fulfilling particular wishes|
|2015 date||November 15 to November 18|
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Chhath (Devanagari: छठ, छठी, छठ पर्व, छठ पुजा, डाला छठ, डाला पुजा, सूर्य षष्ठी) is an ancient Hindu Vedic festival dedicated to the Hindu Sun God, Surya and Chhathi Maiya (ancient Vedic Goddess ; Usha - wife of Sun God ). The Chhath Puja is performed in order to thank Surya for sustaining life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes. This festival is observed by Nepalese people and Indian people along with their diaspora.
The Sun, considered as the god of energy and of the life-force, is worshiped during the Chhath festival to promote well-being, prosperity and progress. In Hinduism, Sun worship is believed to help cure a variety of diseases, including leprosy, and helps ensure the longevity and prosperity of family members, friends, and elders.
The rituals of the festival are rigorous and are observed over a period of four days. They include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water (Vratta), standing in water for long periods of time, and offering prashad (prayer offerings) and arghya to the setting and rising sun.
Although the festival is observed most elaborately in in Mithila Region of Nepal, Terai-Madhesh of Nepal, Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern UP, it is also more prevalent in areas where migrants from those areas have a presence. It is celebrated in all Northern regions and major Northern urban centers in India bordering Nepal. The festival is celebrated in the regions including but not exclusive to the northeast region of India, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Gujarat Bangalore, Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname and Jamaica.
Date of the festival
Chhath puja is performed on Kartika Shukla Shashthi, which is the sixth day of the month of Kartika in the Vikram Samvat. This falls typically in the month of October or November in the Gregorian English Calendar. The exact date of the festival is decided by Central division of Janakpurdham in Mithila Region of Nepal which is applicable to Worldwide adherents.
It is also celebrated in the summer (March–April), on Chaitra Shashthi, some days after Holi; this event is called Chaiti Chhath. The former is more popular because winter is the usual festive season in Nepal and also in Bihar of North India. Chhath, being an arduous observance, requiring the worshipers to fast without water for around 36 hours continuously, is easier to undertake in the Indian winters but little harder in Nepalese Winter for Nepali Maithils due to cold climate in Terai and Mithila region of Nepal.
The word chhath means sixth in Nepali, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Hindi and local dialects and the festival is celebrated on the sixth day of the month Kārtika of the Hindu lunar Nepali calendar. The word is a Prakrit derivation from the Sanskrit ṣaṣṭhi, meaning sixth.It is the longest and most important festival after navratri. The very first day of chhath starts exactly 4 days from Diwali and last for 4 more days. This day the people who observe fast take bath at a river or pond and prepare lunch (consisting of rice,dal mixed with pumpkin and pumpkin, made in pure ghee). The second day (5th day from Diwali) is known as kharna or kheer- roti. In which the kheer( A Indian recipe where rice is prepared with sweetened milk instead of water) and chapati ( called roti in many Indian provinces). The people observe fast for the full day without taking even water and eat this kheer-roti as dinner after offering it to the rising moon and Goddess Ganga. This is the only time when they eat or drink anything from the starting of the day till the last day of chhath. The third day is the main festival day(exactly 6th day from Diwali)of chhath is observed by offering surya namashkar and fruits to the setting sun followed by the next day (exactly 7th day from Diwali) event of offering surya namashkar and fruits to the rising sun on the fourth or last day of chhath.
It is believed that the ritual of Chhath puja may even predate the ancient Vedas texts, as the Rigveda contains hymns worshiping the Sun god and describes similar rituals. The rituals also find reference in the Sanskrit epic poem Mahābhārata in which Draupadi is depicted as observing similar rites.
In the poem, Draupadi and the Pandavas, rulers of Indraprastha (modern Delhi), performed the Chhath ritual on the advice of noble sage Dhaumya. Through her worship of the Sun God, Draupadi was not only able to solve her immediate problems, but also helped the Pandavas later regain their lost kingdom.
Its yogic/scientific history dates back to the Vedic times. The rishis of yore used this method to remain without any external intake of food as they were able to obtain energy directly from the sun's rays. This was done through the Chhath method.
Another history behind celebrating the Chhath puja is the story of Lord Rama. It is considered that Lord Rama of India and Sita of Nepal had kept fast and offer puja to the Lord Sun in the month of Kartika in Shukla Paksh during their coronation after returning to the Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. From that time, chhath puja became the significant and traditional festival in the Hindu religion and started celebrating every year at the same date in Sita's homeland Janakpur and adjoining Indian states of Bihar but has not been popular in Rama's kingdom of Ayodhya.
. The Goddess who is worshipped during the famous Chhath Puja is known as Chhathi Maiya. Chhathi Maiya is known as Usha in the Vedas. She is believed to be the beloved younger wife of Surya, the sun god. Usha and Pratyusha are wives of Surya and Aditi is his mother.
Usha is the term used to refer to dawn– The first light of day. But in the Rig Veda she has more symbolic meaning. Symbolically Usha is the dawn of divine consciousness in the individual aspirant. It is said - Usha and Pratyusha, wives of Sun are the main source of Sun. Both Usha and Pratyusha are worshiped along with Sun in chhath parva. Usha (literally-the first morning sun-ray) is worshipped on the last day and Pratyusha(the last sun-ray of day) is worshipped in the evening by offering water or milk to the rising and setting sun respectively. This is the only parva which signifies rising sun as well as setting sun both
Rituals and traditions
Chhath is a festival of bathing and worshipping,that follows a period of abstinence and segregation of the worshiper from the main household for four days. During this period, the worshiper observes purity, and sleeps on the floor on a single blanket.This is the only holy festival which has no involvement of any pandit (priest).The devotees offer their prayers to the setting sun, and then the rising sun in celebrating its glory as the cycle of birth starts with death. It is seen as the most glorious form of Sun worship.
Nahay khay/Arwa Arwain
On the first day of Chhath Puja, the devotees take a dip, preferably in the river Kosi river, Karnali and Ganga and carry home the holy water of these historical rivers to prepare the offerings. The house and surroundings are scrupulously cleaned. The ladies observing the Vrata called vratin allow themselves only one meal on this day.
Lohanda and Kharna
On the second day of Chhath Puja, the day before Chhath, the Vratins observe a fast for the whole day, which ends in the evening a little after sunset. Just after the worship of Sun and moon, the offerings of Kheer (rice delicacy), puris (deep-fried puffs of wheat flour) and bananas, are distributed among family and friends. The Vratins go on a fast without water for 36 hours after 2nd day evening prashad (kheer)..
Sandhya Arghya (evening offerings) OR Pahela Aragh
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 sung on the evening of Chhath.
Usha Arghya (morning offerings) OR Dusra Aragh
On the final day of Chhath Puja, the devotees, along with family and friends, go to the riverbank before sunrise, in order to make the offerings (Arghya) to the rising sun. The festival ends with the breaking of the fast by the Vratins. Friends, Relatives visit the houses of the devotees to receive the prashad.
The main worshipers, called Parvaitin (from Sanskrit parv, meaning 'occasion' or 'festival'), are usually women. However, a large number of men also observe this festival. The parvaitin pray for the well-being of their family, and for the prosperity of their offsprings. Once a family starts performing Chhatt Puja, it is their 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.
The prasad offerings include sweets, Kheer, Thekua and fruit offered in small bamboo soop winnows. The food is strictly vegetarian and it is cooked without salt, onions or garlic. Emphasis is put on maintaining the purity of the food.
Pictures of Chhath Puja
Morning worship at Bokaro Steel City, Jharkhand
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- Sri Chhath Mahaviggyaan (The Science of Chhath) by Yogishri Oumkaar
- "'Rasiao-kheer', 'thekua' make for festive platter". The Times of India. 1 Nov 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
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