Chhath Puja is a prominent Hindu festival celebrated primarily in the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and parts of Uttar Pradesh. This four-day festival holds immense significance for the devotees who seek blessings for their families’ well-being, prosperity, and a bountiful harvest. In this article, we will delve into the vibrant customs, rituals, and mythology surrounding Chhath Puja, and explore the essence of this auspicious celebration.
The Significance of Chhath Puja
Chhath Puja, also known as Surya Shashti or Dala Chhath, is dedicated to Lord Surya (the Sun God) and his sister Shashti Devi. The festival usually falls six days after Diwali and holds great importance in the Hindu calendar.
A Celebration of Nature and Gratitude
Chhath Puja is a unique festival that celebrates nature, expressing gratitude towards the Sun God for sustaining life on Earth. Devotees worship the Sun God, thanking him for the energy and light that enable the growth of crops and various life forms. It is a beautiful way to honor the cycle of life and the interconnectedness of all living beings.
Purification and Fasting
The rituals of Chhath Puja involve fasting, self-discipline, and strict adherence to purity. Devotees abstain from consuming even water during the fasting period, expressing their dedication and resolve to the Sun God.
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Seeking Blessings for Well-being and Prosperity
The primary motive behind Chhath Puja is to seek the blessings of Lord Surya for the overall well-being and prosperity of the family. It is believed that the Sun God grants boons to the devotees and eradicates any obstacles in their lives.
Rituals and Customs of Chhath Puja
Chhath Puja is celebrated over four days, with each day holding its unique significance and rituals. Let’s explore each day of this extraordinary festival:
Day 1: Nahay Khay (Holy Bath and Preparing Traditional Delicacies)
On the first day of Chhath Puja, devotees take an early morning holy bath in rivers or other water bodies. After cleansing themselves, they prepare traditional delicacies like kheer (rice pudding) and thekua (sweet cookies) as offerings for the rituals.
Day 2: Kharna (Fasting and Preparing Prasad)
On the second day, devotees observe a day-long fast, known as ‘nirjala’ or waterless fasting, during which they abstain from consuming even a drop of water. In the evening, after performing the puja, they prepare a special prasad (offering) consisting of kheer, puris (deep-fried bread), and fruits. This prasad is later shared with family, friends, and neighbors.
Day 3: Sandhya Arghya (Offering Prayers to the Setting Sun)
On the third day, devotees fast from sunrise till sunset and offer their prayers to the setting sun. They gather near rivers or water bodies, carrying earthen lamps and offerings. With their faces towards the setting sun, devotees perform various rituals and venerate the Sun God.
Day 4: Usha Arghya (Offering Prayers to the Rising Sun)
The final day of Chhath Puja is known as Usha Arghya. Devotees wake up before sunrise and make their way to the riverbanks or water bodies. They offer their prayers and make offerings to the rising sun, ending the fasting period. The festival concludes with a great sense of joy, gratitude, and communal harmony.
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The Mythology Behind Chhath Puja
Chhath Puja is rooted in ancient Hindu mythology and has its origins in the epic of Mahabharata. According to the legend, Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, once performed Chhath Puja to seek divine blessings. In return, she was blessed with good health, happiness, and prosperity. The observance of Chhath Puja has been carried forward since then as a way to honor Draupadi’s devotion and receive similar blessings.
Chhath Puja is a wonderful festival that blends spirituality, nature worship, and community bonding. It symbolizes the deep-rooted connection between humans and the environment, reminding us to appreciate and preserve the invaluable resources gifted by nature. As devotees gather on riverbanks, lakeshores, and ponds to perform ancient rituals with utmost devotion, Chhath Puja becomes a testimony to the vibrant cultural heritage of India.