Chhath Pooja-Festival

Chhath Puja is an ancient Hindu Vedic Pooja/festival devoted to the Surya Bhagwan and Chhathi Maiya for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and the granting of peace & harmony for the entire community.  Chhath Pooja is a festival connected with purity and devotion to Surya Dev (Sun God) who represents the permanent source of life and sustenance on this earth. We express thanks/gratitude to the Surya Dev for offering energy to earth continuously enabling the environment suitable for the life to survive.

As the Surya Dev manifests his greatest power in the rising and setting sun, these two significant moments coincide with the two ‘arghyas’ or offering of river water to Surya Dev (Sun) during the festival. The morning glory of the rising sun (Goddesses-Usha, first rays of the morning) and the majesty of the setting sun (Pratyusha, last rays of the evening) evoke a sense of power and awe among millions of devotees who come to pay obeisance to Lord Surya.

As we all were initially farmers, so it also believed that, evening arghya (prayer) people express their gratitude to Surya Dev for its work in growing their crops during the preceding year and morning prayer is considered as a request for a bountiful crop, peace and prosperity for the entire community in the year to come.  It is believed that the Sun is a prime source of energy that sustains all lives on the Earth.  According to the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated and observed 6 days after Diwali on, Kartika Shukla Shashthi.

In Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma), Suryadev is the Bhagwaan of energy and life-force. Therefore, people worship Surya Dev during Chhath Puja for healing, longevity, stability and prosperity of family members, friends, and beloved ones.  Devotees each year pray Bhagwaan Surya Dev enthusiastically to seek success and well-being of the family members and friends.  Once a family starts performing Chhath Pooja, it is their basic dharma & duty to perform it every year and pass it on to the following generations.

Chhath pooja has a special significance during the Sunrise and Sunset periods. Sunrise and sunset are the most important periods of the day during which a human body can safely get solar energy without any harm.  That is the reason why on third and fourth day, devotees make offering at the Dusk or Dawn, respectively.  During this period the solar energy has a low level of ultraviolet radiation, so it is safe for the human body.  The ritual of Chhath puja provides mental calmness (by detoxifying the body and mind), enhances the energy level and immunity reduces the frequency of anger, jealous as well as a lot of negative emotions.  It is also believed that following the Chhath Pooja processes helps in slowing down the aging process.

Chhath pooja/festival, along with the basic traditions and practices of Sanatan dharma is friendly to the environment.  It is known that Chhath Pooja may even predate the ancient Vedas texts, as the Rigveda contains hymns worshipping the Surya Dev.  Also, there are many references to the rituals in the Hindu epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana.  In Mahabharata, Draupadi and the Pandavas perform the Chhath Pooja rituals (worshipping Sun God) on the advice of noble sage Dhaumya in order to regain their lost kingdom.  In Ramayana, Bhagwaan Ramaji & Mata Sitaji had kept fast and offered pooja to the Surya Dev during their coronation after returning to the Ayodhya after 14 years of exile.

The rituals of Chhath Pooja are very rigorous and are observed over a period of four days.  It includes taking the holy bath, fasting, abstinence standing and worshipping the sun for a long time and offering Prasad and Arghya to Rising and Setting Bhagwan Surya Dev. The festival lasts four days comprising elaborate rituals of bathing, prasad-making, fasting and maintaining cleanliness. The rituals mainly comprise fasting and chanting prayers on the banks of holy rivers or any clean water source. Devotional songs are a significant part of the celebrations associated with Chhath pooja. Chhath geet (song) can be heard everywhere and adds to the festive mood. People dress up in traditional clothes.  Some worshipers observe fasting even without water for 36 hours continuously. Devotees during this period observe purity. They sleep on the floor on a single blanket or Kush.

Chatth Pooja is a four-day long festival with each day having a special significance:

1.      Nahay-Khai – The devotees takes bath in the river, preferably Ganges and carries home the holy water and purify the whole house with the Ganga-Jal. The devotees keep fast (Vrata) and have meal (Kaddu-Lauki-Bhaat) in the evening. The food is strictly vegetarian and is cooked without salt, onions or garlics. Emphasis is put on maintaining the purity of the food.

2.      Kharna – The devotees hold fast for the whole day long fast without even having water, till late evening.  They break their fast, after performing Pooja and offering Prasad to Surya Dev before sunset. This prasad mainly includes Rasiao-Kheer, puris and fruits.

3.      Sandhya Arghya – On this day, whole day fasting is again observed by the devotees.  Special preparations are done by the devotees for performing the evening rituals.  The   prasad is prepared and the whole family accompanies the devotees to the bank of any large water body in the evening. Special “Arghya” and offerings are presented to the setting sun. These offerings include sugarcane, coconut, beatle leaves, green leafy carrots, radishes and flowers, home prepared “Thekuaa” which are presented on a Bamboo tray called “Soop”. In the night of this day, the devotee celebrates the vibrant event of filling Kosi (Kosia Bharai) by lighting clay diyas under the five sugarcane stick with folk song of Chhathi Maiya. This sugarcane stick represents the Panchatattva – Earth (Prithvi), Air (Vayu), Water (Jal), Fire (Agni) and Space (Akash).  Chhatthee Maiya geets are sung to add to the rejoicing of the festivals.

4.      Bihaniya (Paran) Arghya – On the last day of Puja, the devotees with family go to the river prior to sunrise.  Here the rising sun is worshipped, and the offerings are made to Surya Dev to receive the blessings of the rising sun.   After performing the rituals, the devotees break their fast by having Ginger, molasses and water.  This marks the end of the four day long Mahparv-Chatth Pooja/festival comes to its end. After that, the prasad (Thekuaa & fruits) is distributed to everybody.

Chhath Pooja is worship of the Surya Dev embodied in cosmic energy and is mainly observed & celebrated in the Indian state of Bihar, Jharkhand, Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Madheshi of Nepal and along with their its diaspora.  Chhath Pooja is present in the hearts of the people and they bring it where-ever they have migrated.

For a complete understanding of the Chatth Puja-Festival and its emotional, psychological and the sociological impacts on the devotees and their families, please visit:

http://www.chhath.org/

and watch the videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_e-hBFZdL3Ihttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQGFXqpa85M

Wishing everyone Shubh Chhatth & Hardik Shubhkamnaye!!!!!!!!!!

By Amritesh Singh

Leave a Reply