Chhath Festival :
Chhat is the only festival with sound history where you can find evidence of worship of setting Sun.
Chhath is a Hindu festival celebrated each year by the people very eagerly. This is very unique festival of the Hindu Religion dedicated to The Sun, God of energy, also known as Dala Chhath or Surya Shashti. People celebrate this festival to offer thanks to the Lord Surya for blessing the life on the earth forever. People worship the God Sun very enthusiastically and pray for the well-being, success and progress of their family members, friends, and elders. According to the Hinduism, Sun worship is related to the cure of a range of diseases such as leprosy, etc.
The rituals at this day starts from waking up early in the morning, taking a holy bath in the Ganges and keeping fast whole day, even people do not drink water and they keep themselves standing in the water for a long time. They offer Prasad (fruits, dry fruits and sugarcane) and Arghya (water laced with dry fruits spices) to the rising sun. It is celebrated in the all eastern states of India like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Nepal. According to the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated on 6th day of the month of Kartika (month of October-November).
At some places, Chaiti Chhath is also celebrated in the month of Chaitra (March-April) few days after Holi. It is named as Chhath because it is celebrated at the 6th day of the month of Kartika. Chhat Worship is indigenous to the Dehri-On-Sone, Patna, Dev and Gaya. Now, it is celebrated all over the country as People of Bihar have migrated and settled in different parts of India and follow their tradition wherever they go.
In Varanasi also it is celebrated with great enthusiasm.
Schedule of 2016 Chhath Puja :
- Friday, 4th of November 2016 is the day of bathing and eating.
- Saturday, 5th of November 2016 is the day of fast which ends after sunset after the 36 long hours of fast.
- Sunday, 6th of November 2016 is the day of Sandhya Arghya known as the Evening Offerings.
- Monday, 7th of November 2016 is the day of Suryodaya Arghya and the Paaran or Breaking of the fast.
History and Origin of Chhath Puja :
Sun Worship is as old as Human Civilization itself. Earliest evidence of Sun Worship is found in Rigveda, the earliest scripture of India as well as world. The famous Gayatri Mantra is dedicated to the Sun God. It is said that earliest kings invited Sages to perform Yajna and they chanted some hymns to dedicate to Lord Sun as they considered it is Sun which have given life on the Earth. Now those hymns are commonly known to Hindus and offered to please sun god to further preserve life on earth.
There are abundant evidences of Sun Worship from ancient, Later Vedic, Epic Period and contemporary times. In Mahabharata Period Draupadi and Pandavas worshipped sun to get rid of their problems and Lord Rama worshipped Sun to conquer Ravana and now people worship Sun to get peace prosperity and progress.
People worship Chhathi Maiya (mother) to overcome their troubles as well as to get the Moksha or liberation from cycle of births.
Legends of Chhath Worship :
1st Legend :
It is said that once River Ganges gave birth to a beautiful son and left it in a reed forest. There lived 6 Kartikas who brought her son up. The boy was Skandh mentioned in Mahabharata. Later this boy was called Kartikeya on the name of 6 Kartikas. The month in which this event happened was called Kartika.
2nd Legend :
Second legend goes that once gods sought leadership of Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. They had to fight a war with demons. Goddess Parvati worshipped the setting sun of the day on which Kartikaya departed for his victory. Later she worshipped the rising sun when he returned victorious. Onwards people started celebrating the festival.
3rd Legend :
Long ago, there was a king named, Priyavrat and his wife Malini. They were living very happily but their happiness was incomplete as they had no child. They decided to perform a big Yajna with the help of Maharishi Kashyap in order to be blessed with a child. In due time Malini gave birth to a child but she had given birth to a dead child after nine months. King was very sad and decided to commit suicide. Suddenly, there appeared a Goddess in front of him while committing suicide. Goddess said, “I’m Goddess Khashti, if someone worships me he will get a child.” The king, Priyavrat did the same and blessed with a very lovely and charming child. Since then, all who wanted an offspring would worship Goddess Shashti (consort of Lord Shiva).
Another history behind celebrating the Chhath Puja is the story of Lord Rama. It is considered that Lord Rama and Mata Sita had kept fast and offeredPuja to the Lord Sun in the month of Kartik in Shukla Paksh during their coronation after returning to the Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. From that time, Chhath Puja became significant and traditional in the Hindu religion and people started celebrating every year at the same date.
Another legend dates back to Mahabharata Period. It is also said that Chhath Puja was first started by the Surya Putra Karna. He was a great warrior and had ruled over the Anga Desh (Munger district of Bihar) during the Mahabharata period.
Worship of Chhathi Maiya (consort of the Lord Surya) is held at Chhath Puja, Chhathi Maiya is also known as Usha in the Vedas. Usha means dawn (the first light of the day).
Rituals and Traditions of Chhath Puja :
It is believed that worshippers of the Chhath take holy bath and follows a period of abstinence for 4 days from the family and outer world. Throughout the period he/she is believed pious spirit and sleeps on the floor on woolen blanket. There is a common belief that once a family begins Chhath Puja, he has to perform it yearly as well as pass it to his next generations and it can only be skipped when there is a death of any person in the family that year.
Devotees offer Prasad to Sun at the Chhath such as sweets, Kheer (a dish made of milk and rice), Thekua (a dish made of flour, ghee etc.) and fruits included in a small bamboo basket. The Prasad should be cooked without salt, onions or garlic to maintain purity. It is a four days festival which includes:
- On the first day, devotees take bath early in the morning in the holy water of Ganges and bring some water to their home to prepare the offerings. The home and its surroundings should be cleaned at this day. They take only one meal a day known as kaddu-bhat cooked only by using the bronze or earthen-pots and fuel of mango woods over the mud-stove.
- On the second day (the day before Chhath, Panchami), devotees keep fast whole day and break their fast in the evening after worshipping setting Sun. They offer Rasiao-kheer, Puris and fruits in the Puja. After taking meal in the evening, they go on a fast without water for the next 36 hours.
- On the third day (day of Chhath) they offer the Sanjhiya a deteriorated form of Sandhya, meaning evening Arghya at the riverbank. After Arghya, they wear the single Saree of turmeric color. Other family members wait for blessings of worshipper as he/she become pious after offering worship to Lord Sun. At the night of Chhath a vibrant event of Kosi is celebrated by lighting the earthen-lamps under the covering of five sugarcane sticks. The five sugarcane sticks indicate the Panchatattvai.e.earth, water, fire, air and space. It is considered in Hindu Religion that human body is made of Panchatattva.
- On the early morning of the fourth day (Paaran), devotees along with their family and friends offer Bihaniya(Morning) Arghya on riverbank of Ganges. Devotees end their festival by breaking the fast and having the Chhath Prasad.
Stages of Chhath Puja : There are six great stages of the Chhath Puja:
- The belief of fast and cleanliness of body on the festival identify the detoxification of the body and mind in order to get ready the body and mind to accept the cosmic solar energy.
- Standing in water with half of the body inside the water diminishes the escape of energy as well as facilitates the Prana to elevate to the Sushumna.
- Then the entrance of cosmic solar energy takes place in the pineal, pituitary and hypothalamus glands (known as the Triveni complex) through retina and optic nerves.
- In the 4th stage Triveni complex gets activated.
- After activation of the Triveni complex, spine gets polarized and body of devotee gets transformed into a cosmic powerhouse and gets the Kundalini Shakti (mentioned in Yogasana).
- At this stage the devotee is fully able to conduct, recycle and pass on the energy into entire universe.
Benefits of the Performance of 6 stages of Chhath Puja :
- It is the way of detoxifying the body and mind which leads to the positive biochemical changes in the body.
- Through detoxification it becomes possible to control the flow of Prana as well as get more energy. It improves the texture of skin, develops better eyesight and the ageing process slows down.
Benefits of Chhath Puja :
- Devotee of the Chhath Puja can improve the immunity of body.
- A variety of skin infections could be cured by the radiations of sunlight.
- It increases the fighting power of blood by improving the performance of WBC.
- Solar energy provides the power to control the secretion of hormones.
- Daily sun meditation relaxes the body and mind. Pranayama, Yoga, meditation are also the way to improve the control on body and mind. Pilgrims comeVaranasi for a peaceful Yoga and meditation on the banks of River Ganges.
Significance of Chhath Puja :
Chhat Puja of India is the only festival of India; perhaps world on which first setting Sun is worshipped later rising.
Chhath Puja has a special significance during the Sunrise and Sunset periods. The Sunrise and sunset are the most important periods of the day during which a human body can get safe transfer of the solar energy. That’s why there is a myth of offering the Sanjhiya Arghya and Bihaniya Arghya to the Sun at the Chhath festival. During this period the solar energy has low level of ultraviolet radiations so it is safe for the human body. People perform the Chhath Puja in order to thank the Lord Sun for continuing the life on the earth as well as to get blessings.
The ritual of Chhath Puja provides mental calmness (by detoxifying the body and mind), enhances the energy level and immunity, reduce the frequency of anger, jealous as well as lot of negative emotions. It is also believed that following the Chhath processes helps in slowing down the ageing process. Such beliefs and rituals of the Chhath make it the most significant festival in the Hinduism.
Myths related to Chhat Puja :
With time evils creep in traditions and many illogical facts get connected to rituals. One of such related to Chhat Festival is Chhat Puja is performed by only those who have sons or want sons but not for daughters. It is false fact which has crept into great festival as a consequence of Patriarchal mindset. All are equally welcomed by god in his abode. Parents with sons or daughters as well as those without any child are equally able to worship. Such mindsets should be refrained from being rumored. Often dogmas are reasoned and devotees are encouraged to follow by saying that they would be cursed by God. But in reality such practices destroy the fervor of such great festivals of India
This is the celebration of the Chhath Pooja early in the morning by the people. There is a great crowd all around the river by the people who are celebrating the Chhath Pooja early in the morning by offering Arghya to Sun God.
What a nice photograph of the Chhath Pooja celebration on the Bank of the River Ganges. They are taking holy bath early in the morning in order to complete their Chhath Pooja and get a lot of blessings from the God.
Women devotees are celebrating Chhath Pooja in their traditional way and in beautiful manner. They are offering some Prasad to the God in their Banboo Baskets. They are also worshipping the banana tree. Some of them are taking bath and some of them are sitting at the bank of river whereas some of them are standing away from bank of the river.
Pilgrims of the Chhath Pooja are buying fruits for offering to the God in the form of Prasad. What a nice picture of the event early in the morning at the ghat of Ganges. Sellers are selling their fruits to the devotees and helping the devotees to complete the Chhath Pooja.
Such an awesome snap of the event where women are taking bath in the River with sugarcane in their hands.They are celebrating the Chhath Pooja in completely traditional and cultural manner. Men are also there to help women.