Chhath is an ancient Hindu Vedic festival in the Indian subcontinent. The celebration of Chhath Puja lasts for four long days and is celebrated in the Kartika month of the Vikram Samvat calendar. It is dedicated to the Sun God (Surya Devta) in order to thank him for providing life on earth and to request him for granting some wishes. Along with Sun God, Chhathi Maiya is also worshipped. She is the goddess of the festival who provides strength and support to the poor. This festival is observed by Biharis & Nepalese along with their diaspora. Furthermore, it is mainly celebrated in the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh. It is also celebrated in the Madhesh region of Nepal.
On Chhath Puja, the Sun is offered an arghya in the evening of the first day and in the morning of the second day. The rituals of this festival are rigorous and are observed over a period of four days. The rituals include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water, standing in water for long periods of time, and offering prasad (prayer offerings) and arghya to the setting and rising sun. Furthermore, it is the only festival that does not involve any idol of God. Due to this, Environmentalists have claimed that the festival of Chhath is one of the most eco-friendly religious festivals that should be used to spread the message of nature conservation.
Apart from that, it is one of the Hindu festivals that transcend the rigid caste system. Every devotee, whether he/ she is from the elite or middle class or from the upper or lower caste, prepares almost similar Prasad and other items to offer to the Sun God. Without any distinction in caste, color, or economy, all the devotees arrive at the bank of rivers or ponds for extending their prayers.
The Chhath festival is observed mainly in the Madhesh (southern) region of Nepal and the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and UP. Furthermore, it also spread in areas where migrants from these areas have a presence. It is celebrated in all Northern regions and major Northern urban centers in India. The festival is celebrated in the regions including but not exclusive to the northeast region of India, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Rajasthan Mumbai, Mauritius, Fiji, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica, other parts of the Caribbean, United States, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Macau, Japan, and Indonesia.
Chhath is a Vedic ritual dedicated to the Sun God and goddess Shashthi (also called Chhathi Maiyya). In the Ramayana, when Rama and Sita returned to Ayodhya, on its sixth day Ramrajya was established. On this day, Rama and Sita kept fast and Chhath Puja was performed by Sita. After that, she was blessed with Luv and Kush as their sons. In the Mahabharata, Chhath Puja was performed by Kunti after they escaped from Lakshagrih.
Apart from this, there is another legend of King Priyavrat. He is the son of First Manu Swayambhu and had no children. Because of this, he used to be very sad. Maharishi Kashyap asked him to do a yajna for a son and he performed it. After this, Queen Malini, King Priyavrat’s wife, gave birth to a son. But unfortunately, the baby was born dead. Saden from this, the king prayed to Mata Shashthi. Thereafter, Goddess blessed the lifeless child with her hands so that he was alive. The king was very pleased with the grace of the Goddess Shashthi and started worshiping her. It is believed that after this puja, this festival is celebrated worldwide.
Chhath Puja is a folk festival that is celebrated in the span of four days. This four-day festival starts with Kartik Shukla Chaturthi and ends with Kartik Shukla Saptami. Here is the significance of each day of Chhath Puja.
This is the first day of Chhath Puja. On this day, people take bath and clean their houses. After that, food is kept in front of God and then eaten to protect the mind from vengeful tendencies.
Kharna is the second day of Chhath Puja. Kharna means the fast of the whole day. On this day, the devotees are not allowed to drink even a single drop of water. Then, in the evening, they can eat gur ki kheer (jaggery kheer), fruits, and chapati full of ghee.
On the third day of Chhath puja, an arghya is offered to the sun god during the Kartik Shukla Shashthi. In the evening, devotees decorate a bamboo basket with fruits, thekua, and rice laddus after which they offer an arghya to the sun with their families. At the time of Arghya, they offer water and milk to the Sun God and the Chhathi Maiya is worshiped with prasad. Furthermore, after the worship of Sun God, Shashthi Devi songs are sung in the night and the vrat katha is heard.
On the last day of Chhath puja, an arghya is offered to the Sun God in the morning. On this day, the devotees have to go to the riverbank before sunrise to offer an arghya to the rising sun. After this, they sought the protection of their child from Chhathi Maiya and the happiness of the entire family for peace. After worship, devotees drink sharbat and raw milk. Furthermore, they eat a little prasad in order to break their fast which is called Paran or Parana.
Chhath Puja is a festival of religious as well as cultural importance. This festival is dedicated to the Sun God and is the only festival in which Sun is worshiped as well as offered an arghya. Arghya is offered in the evening and in the morning to the setting and rising sun respectively. The worshipping of the Sun God has great importance in the Hindu religion. He is the only God whom we can see. Moreover, he is the basis of the life of all creatures on earth and referred to as the soul of the world in the Vedas. The light of the sun has the ability to destroy many diseases. With the auspicious effect of the sun, the person gets health, wealth, and self-confidence.
Along with the Sun God, Chhathi Maiya is also worshipped on this day. According to Vedic Astrology, Chhathi Maiya or Chhathi Mata protects the children and provides longevity to them. Furthermore, it is said that worshipping her brings fortunes, well-being for the children, pleasure, and desire. In the last few years, Chhath Pooja has got a special significance as a folk festival. Due to this the festival is celebrated with great pomp and show in various region of the Indian continent.