India is an ancient land with numerous festivals.
It would not be an exaggeration to state that “India is a land of festivals.” There are certain festivals that are as ancient as India.
Chhath Puja is one such important and ancient festival dedicated to the worship of Sun God and Chhathi Maiya, ancient Vedic Goddess Usha – wife of Sun God.
Chhath Puja is a four-day festival which begins on the sixth day after Diwali. The festival is celebrated each year in the month of October or November. Chhat Puja is considered as one of the most difficult festivals as it requires women to fast without food and water for long durations during the festive period of four days.
Chhath Puja is also known as Dala Chhath or Surya Shashti. People celebrate this festival by offering thanks to the Sun God for sustaining life on the earth. They pray to the Sun God for the success, well-being and progress of their family members, elders, and friends. It is believed that Sun worship helps to cure various diseases such as Leprosy, etc.
Chhath Puja is the most important festival of the people of Bihar. However, it is also enthusiastically celebrated in various other states of India including Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, and Mumbai. People of Nepal and Mauritius also celebrate Chhath Puja.
On the day of Chhat Puja, people (mostly women) wake up early in the morning. They take a holy bath in the Ganges or nearby river. They keep fast for the whole day and do not even drink water. They stand in the water for a long time and offer “Prasadam” and “argh” to the rising sun.
Origin of Chhath Puja
Ever since the ancient times, Chhath Puja had a great significance among the Hindus.
It is believed that Kings called upon the Purohits to perform the traditional puja of the Sun God. Hymns were chanted from the sacred Vedas for worshipping the Sun God.
Many believe that Chhat Puja was started by the Surya Putra Karna, the great Mahabharata warrior who ruled over the Anga Desh (parts of Bihar). The festival was also observed by the Pandavas and Draupadi for regaining their lost kingdom.
Worship of Chhath Maiya, the consort of the Sun God, is also done at Chhath Puja. The Goddess Chhath Maiya is known as Usha in the Vedas. It means the first light of the day. People offer their prayers to Chhath Maiya for getting her blessings. It is believed that Chhath Maiya grants happiness and prosperity to the devotees.
Chhath Puja is also closely related to Lord Rama.
It is believed that Lord Rama and Mata Sita offered prayers to the Sun God. They kept fast in the month of Kartika when they returned to Ayodhya after their 14 years of exile. Ever since then, Chhath Puja became an important part of the Hindu religion and people began to celebrate it every year at the same date with total devotion and enthusiasm.
Chhath Puja Katha
In the ancient times, there lived a king named Priyavrat and his wife, Malini. They were living happily. However, they had no child. This grieved them a lot.
The King consulted Maharishi Kashyap and told him that he and his wife were unhappy as they do not have any child. The Rishi advised him to perform a Yagya so that he may be blessed with a child.
The Yagya was organized, and Malini became pregnant due to the effect of the Yagya.
However, after nine months she gave birth to a dead child. Priyavrat became sad and decided to suicide.
However, at that time Goddess Khasthi appeared before him and told him that whosoever would offer a puja to her with pure mind and soul, would get a child. Then King Priyavrat and his wife
Malini performed a Puja offering to the Goddess Khashti. Soon, they were blessed with a cute and beautiful child.
Since then, Chhath Puja began to be celebrated by the people.
Importance of Chhath Puja
Chhath Puja is mainly associated with the worship of Sun God, especially during the Sunrise and Sunset periods. It is believed that Sunrise and Sunset are the best periods to receive the solar energy without any harm to the human body.
That’s why in Chhath Puja, devotees offer Usha Arghya and Sandhya Arghya to the Sun God during sunrise and sunset. People worship Sun God for sustaining life on earth as well as to get blessings.
The rituals of Chhat Puja help the devotees to come over their negative emotions. It provides mental calmness and slows down the process of aging.
Such beliefs and customs of the Chhath Puja make it one of the most important festivals of the Hindus.
How Chhath Puja is celebrated – Chhat Puja Rituals & Traditions
Chhath Puja is considered to be one of the most difficult festivals of the Hindus. Chhath Puja rituals last for four days and require women to fast for long durations without food and water over this period of four days.
The first day of the Chhath Puja is known as “Nahai Khai” or “nahan khan.” Devotees go to the Ganges or nearby river or pond and take a holy dip. They carry water to their homes. They use the water to prepare Prasad or offerings for the Sun God. They clean their house and its surroundings. The worshippers take only one meal on this day.
The second day is known as “lohanda.” Worshippers keep fast for the whole day and break their fast after sunset after worshipping the Sun God. They offer fruits, puris, and kheer in the puja. Once they have their meal, devotees again go on a fast for the next 36 hours during which they neither eat anything nor drink even a sip of water.
On the third day, which is known as the day of Chhath, devotees prepare Prasad and offer the Sandhya Arghya at the ghat of a river bank or pond. Devotees worship the Sun God and Chhath Maiya. Women wear a single saree of turmeric color. At night, the event of Kosi is celebrated where clay diyas are lighted under the covering of five sugarcane sticks. The five sugarcane sticks symbolize the Pancha Tattva (earth, water, fire, space, and air) that constitute the human body.
On the fourth day, devotees offer “Usha Arghya” to the rising sun at the bank of the river or pond. After performing puja, devotees break their fast. They distribute Prasad among family members and friends.
So, although Chhath Puja is one of the most difficult festivals of Hindus, it is still celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion by a large number of people from all across the country. It is an occasion to thank the Sun God for sustaining life on the planet Earth.
Happy Chhath Puja to all of you!!
Chhath Puja Dates 2019
Chhat Puja Day 1 – Nahay Khay – 31st October 2019, Thursday
Chhat Puja Day 2 – Lohanda and Kharna – 1st November 2019, Friday
Chhat Puja Day 3 – Chhath Puja, Sandhya Arghya – 2nd November 2019, Saturday
Chhat Puja Day 4 – Usha Arghya, Parana Day – 3rd November 2019, Sunday
Chhath Puja Timings for 2nd November 2019
Sunrise on Chhath Puja Day = 06:10 AM
Sunset on Chhath Puja Day = 06:01 PM