New Delhi: Chhath Puja, one of the most ancient and revered festivals in India, is a celebration of the sun god and nature. Observed primarily in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and the Terai region of Nepal, this festival is a grand occasion for worship, rituals, and devotion to the cosmic source of energy, the sun.
The festival of Chhath Puja will begin on November 17, 2023, with the ritual of Nahay-Khay, which involves taking a holy bath in a river, pond, or any other water body, and eating a meal of rice, gram dal, and pumpkin vegetable. This marks the start of the four-day-long fasting period, during which the devotees abstain from food and water and offer prayers to the sun god at sunrise and sunset.
The second day of the festival is known as Kharna, which involves observing a strict fast without drinking water and preparing a special prasad (offering) of rice, milk, jaggery, kheer, and thekua (a sweet snack) in the evening. The prasad is offered to the sun god and then consumed by the devotees, who begin their 36-hour waterless fast from this day.
The third day of the festival is the most crucial and difficult one, as the devotees continue their waterless fast and prepare other prasad items, such as fruits and sweets, for the evening ritual of Sandhya Arghya. This ritual involves offering water and milk to the setting sun at a nearby water body, such as a river or a pond. The devotees also sing folk songs and hymns in praise of the sun god and his sister, Chhathi Maiya, who is worshipped as the goddess of the festival.
The fourth and final day of the festival is known as Usha Arghya, which involves offering water and milk to the rising sun at the same water body where the Sandhya Arghya was performed. This ritual marks the end of the fasting period, and the devotees break their fast by eating the prasad and seeking blessings from the sun god and Chhathi Maiya. The festival of Chhath Puja also ends with this ritual, and the devotees return to their homes with joy and gratitude.
The festival of Chhath Puja is believed to have its origins in the ancient Vedic texts, and it is said that it has been celebrated for more than 2,000 years. The word “Chhath” means “the sixth day”, as the festival is celebrated on the sixth day of the lunar month of Kartik, after Diwali. The festival is also observed in the month of Chaitra, after Holi, and is known as Chaiti Chhath.
The significance of Chhath Puja lies in its expression of gratitude and reverence to the sun god, who is considered the source of life and energy on Earth. The festival is also a way of showing respect for nature and its elements, such as water, air, and fire. The festival is also regarded as a spiritually purifying and healing festival, as it is believed that the sun god grants the wishes of the devotees and blesses them with health, happiness, and prosperity. The festival is also a celebration of community bonding and social harmony, as the devotees come together to perform the rituals and share the prasad.