Chhath is a notable Hindu Vedic festival historically which is native to Bihar, Jharkhand and Eastern Uttar Pradesh of India and the Madhesh of Nepal. As per the folklore, The Chhath Puja is dedicated to the Sun and his wife Usha in order to thank them for granting the profusions of life in this world and to pray for the devotee’s happiness and their respective families. According to Hindu mythology, Sun is the god of energy and dispeller of darkness, one who empowers knowledge, the good and all life and worshiping The Sun is believed to cure a variety of diseases, including leprosy, and helps ensure the endurance and prosperity of family members.
The exact date of the festival is decided by a Central division of Janakpurdham in Mithila Region of Nepal which is applicable to worldwide devotees. Chhath puja is performed on Kartika Shukla Shashti, which is the sixth day of the month of Kartika in the Vikram Samvat also known as Hindu calendar year. This usually falls in the month of October or November in The Gregorian English Calendar.
Although the festival is perceived most decoratively in Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and UP and Madhesh province of Nepal. It is also widespread in the most urban center where migrants from these areas have an existence and Chatt celebration is also common in countries like Mauritius, Fiji, South Africa, even in United States, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Macau, Japan, and Indonesia. Conservationists have also claimed that Chhath is the most environmentally friendly Hindu festival.
Origin and Its Etymology
The rituals also find a reference in the Sanskrit epic poem Mahabharata in which Draupadi is depicted as observing similar rites. In the poem, Draupadi and the Pandava’s did 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 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 Ayodhya and Sita of Mithila had kept fast and offer puja to the Lord Sun in the month of Kartika in Shukla Paksha 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.
The Goddess who is worshipped during the Chhath Puja is known as Chhathi Maiya. Chhathi Maiya is also known as Usha in the Vedas. She is believed to be the wife of the sun god. This is the only Hindu festival which connotes the rising sun as well as setting sun both.
The Events of Chhat
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, standing in water for long periods of time, and offering Prashad (prayer offerings) and arghya (Offering to the lord) to the setting and rising sun. Some devotees also perform a prostration march as they head for the river banks. The Prasad offerings include Kheer, Thekua (a sweet snack used from centuries) and fruits (mainly sugarcane, sweet lime and banana) offered in small bamboo winnows. The food is strictly vegetarian and is cooked in rock salt and without onions or garlic. Importance is on maintaining the purity of the food.
The very first day of chhath starts exactly 4 days from Diwali and last for 4 more days. This day the people who perceive fast take bath in a river or pond or even in their houses under secluded conditions and prepare a lunch consisting of rice, pluses mixed with gourd, made in pure ghee. The second day which is known as kharna, the devotees observe fast for the full day without water and eat kheer and 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. The devotees maintain the Fast without even taking a drop of water on the third day. It mainly consists of going on the river bank and offering of fruits and sweets in the winnow to the setting sun is observed followed by the next day in which offering argha to the rising sun on the fourth or last day of chhath. The fast is then comes to end after offering argha to rising sun. In this way, the \42 hours of strict penance comes to its conclusion.