Chhath Puja is an age-old Hindu festival which is dedicated to Lord Surya (Sun God) and Chhathi Maiya, who is known to be the sister of Lord Surya. This festival is unique to the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Eastern Uttar Pradesh and the country of Nepal. It’s the only festival that is dedicated to Lord Surya, who is supposed to be the source of all powers. The God of light, life force and energy is worshipped in order to promote well-being, development and the prosperity of human beings. Devotees express their gratitude towards Lord Surya and perform important rituals over a for a span of four days. People who observe the fast during this festival are called Vrati.
There are several legends that explain in detail the origin of Chhath Puja. It is believed that in ancient times, Draupadi and the Pandavas of Hastinapur used to celebrate Chhath in order to solve their issues and gain their lost kingdom again. A few mantras from the Rig Veda texts are chanted by worshippers while offering prayers to the Sun.According to another legend, Chhath Puja was first performed by Karna, who is considered to be an offspring of Lord Surya and Kunti. He ruled over the Anga Desh which is the modern-day Bhagalpur in Bihar, during the age of Mahabharata.
Chatt Puja is an ancient Hindu Vedic festival dedicated to Lord Sun & his wives-Usha & Sandhya in order to thank them for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes. The Goddess who is worshipped during the famous Chhath Puja is known as Chhathi Maiya. Chhathi Maiya is known as Usha in the Vedas. She is believed to be the beloved younger wife of Surya, the sun god. In mithilanchal region she is also worshipped as name of “RANA MAI “.This is native to Indian subcontinent celebrated very widely in the eastern part of India. It is observed by Maithilis, Magahis, Bhojpuris & even Awadhis of India & Nepal.Chatt means Six in Maithili,Magahi & Bhojpuri languages because the main festival occurs after 5 days of Deepavali i.e, the Sixth day, that’s why the name Chatt. Chatt Puja starts from the fourth day of Deepavali & lasts for another four days. 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 (Vratta), standing in water for long periods of time, and offering prasad (prayer offerings) and arghya to the setting and rising sun. Some devotees also perform a prostration march as they head for the river banks. (Generally those devotees who take mannat for their some work,after that is completed they perform prostration.)
The festival starts with ‘Nahay Khaye’ which means ‘Bath & Eat’. This day the people who observe fast take bath at a river or pond and prepare lunch (consisting of rice, dal mixed with pumpkin/gourd, made in pure ghee). The second day (5th day from Diwali) is known as kharna or kheer- roti or kheer-puri. In which the kheer( A Indian recipe where rice is prepared with sweetened milk instead of water) and chapati ( called roti in many Indian provinces). The people observe fast for the full day without taking even water and eat this kheer-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 (exactly 6th day from Diwali) of chhath.The devotees maintain ‘nirjal vrat(vrata)’ ( Fast without even taking a drop of water ) on the third day. It mainly consist of going on river bank and offering ‘argha’ ( offering of fruits and sweets in winnow ) and surya namaskar to the setting sun followed by the next day (exactly 7th day from Diwali) event of offering argha and surya namaskar to the rising sun on the fourth or last day of chhath. The fast then comes to an end after offering argha to rising sun. In this way, nearly 42 hours of strict penance comes to an end.
Why ‘Chhath Puja’ is considered important festival for Biharis?
The most unique feature about the Chhath Puja is the main idea behind it which is above the disputed concept of Murti Pujan (Idol Worshipping) unlike most of the festivals of the Hindu religion. In simple terms, Sun is the source of life for possibly every creature on this planet earth and this festival is just a way to pay tribute to that life support system irrespective of caste, creed, gender and social stigmas . Isn’t that unique, simple and binding?The uniqueness in the whole fuss about this festival amongst Bihari(s) is because of a never ending list-
Young, Newly married, Widow, Divorcee, no matter what is your relationship status you can keep the fast without being bound to fall in a category to observe this fast.
Male or Female is hardly a concern because just like sunlight reaches all, this festival preaches all. You could see both or say even the third gender as a devotee at the Chhath Puja.
The cleanliness and brotherhood reaches sky high the moment Chhath Puja approaches and it is surely an inspiration to be followed otherwise as well.It is a 4 day festival with 2 days of pre-festival procedures and 2 days of main fast and believe it or not every other devotee has to follow the same strict guidelines throughout with no weightage to “Jaanta hai mera baap kaun hai!”
All the proceedings and offerings are offered by the devotees observing the fast all on their own which breaks another stereotype of hiring a priest.
The inclusiveness of this festival goes on to an extent that right from the preparation phase till the Prasad vitaran ( offering distribution) phase, every other caste has a vital role to play without being demeaned to be belonging from that caste.
Also, there is no huge fuss about list of things to be offered like a pricey affair, because literally anything, almost like you name it and it is there kind is being offered to the Sun God in Chhath Puja and you choose that as per your convenience.
Most importantly, you can ask for the Prasad (the famous Thekua, wheat-flour savory) and blessings from a devotee just by asking for it even if you’re a total stranger to them because no one says no to such favours and that makes it a universal uniting mechanism so to say.
Not to forget the Chhath Puja aura which includes back to back SHARDA SINHA songs being played at every other point across the city, the vivid decoration and excellent law & order across the Ghats (River Banks) forcing every Bihari to mark it in their calendars right at the beginning of the year.
Women on periods has been a huge fuss across our culture specially for religious purposes but the Chhath Puja doesn’t prohibit women from observing the fast if they are menstruating.
The Leniency to continue observing this fast has different funda(s) across different regions of Bihar with Mihtilanchal (North Bihar) having the culture to do it no matter what whereby rest of the regions believes in observing and discontinuing the fast over the years if a misfortune meets their family such as death. Convenience at the best, I say!
Since the Puja is widely celebrated across the Indian state of Bihar and several other neighboring states, the Biharis find themselves too much associated to the smallest possible preparation from a very young age in their lives. It is because of the tuning which Bihar gives in its upbringing that no matter where we live Chhath Puja shenanigans is a must to do ranging from beaches to river side, ponds to lakes, swimming pools to Rubber pools and to the huge utensils too. At the end it is the devotion that matters. Wo kehte hain na “Mann changa toh Kathauti mein Ganga.”
Biharis are mainly dependent on agriculture for there bread and I don’t think you’re that dumb, you must have studied photosynthesis and must be knowing about autotrophs and hetrotrophs.Sun who is the ultimate source of energy who is reason for our live showers his blessings irrespective of caste, creed, gender and social stigmas .
One of the stories behind Chhath Puja goes like this,
In Mahabharata time, Bihar was divided into two kingdoms, one of them being Anga which is present day Bhagalpur and other being Magadh.Anga was ruled by one of the greatest hero of Mahabharata, Karna.Karna being the son of Surya, worshipped him everyday while dipped in water. The day, or the festival which is celebrated now as Chhath was the last of such Pooja by him in Anga, after which he went to Kurushetra to fight the wall, never to return again.Now, the population of Anga adored their kind ruler who gave away everything in his life, like the giver his father Sun is. So in his respect, they worship the Surya Dev in the same way.
Later on, the festival became popular among the general masses of Bihar with stories of Chhathi Maiyya attached to it and all the pomp and show and songs.One of the stories associated with this festival is to do with Draupadi in the Mahabharata. It is thought that it was Draupadi’s devotion to the Sun God that helped the Pandavas reclaim their kingdom and put an end to their problems. It is also thought that Karna, who was the sun of Surya and the ruler of the place called Angadesh in the Mahabharata (present day Bhagalpur in Bihar) is the reason Chhath pooja is celebrated because of his undying devotion to the Sun God. There are also stories of Lord Rama and Sita in the Ramayana offering poojas to the Sun God after the coronation of Lord Rama in Ayodhya.Vedas of Hindu mythology venerates Sun for being a majestic power, as a god who observes both good and evil actions. The sun is “Divine power” and is the creator and nourisher of the Earth. Sun is the bestower of light and life to the totality of the universe. Sun is revered as source of light which brings enlightenment or illumination. The sun is the source of wisdom.Chhath pooja is one such festival to offer Salutation to the Sun to acquire wisdom and seek his blessings for the overall prosperity of the family.
The most unique feature about the Chhath Puja is the main idea behind it which is above the disputed concept of Murti Pujan (Idol Worshipping) unlike most of the festivals of the Hindu religion. In simple terms, Sun is the source of life for possibly every creature on this planet earth and this festival is just a way to pay tribute to that life support system irrespective of caste, creed, gender and social stigmas . Isn’t that unique, simple and binding?The uniqueness in the whole fuss about this festival amongst Bihari(s) is because of a never ending list-Young, Newly married, Widow, Divorcee, no matter what is your relationship status you can keep the fast without being bound to fall in a category to observe this fast.Male or Female is hardly a concern because just like sunlight reaches all, this festival preaches all. You could see both or say even the third genderas a devotee at the Chhath Puja.The cleanliness and brotherhood reaches sky high the moment Chhath Puja approaches and it is surely an inspiration to be followed otherwise as well.It is a 4 day festival with 2 days of pre-festival procedures and 2 days of main fast
Chhath is also being celebrated with religious fervor and gaiety in Tarai- Madhes region, where lakhs of devotees offered Sandhya Arghya to Sun God. Ghats of various rivers, ponds and water bodies in Janakpur,Birgunj, Biratnagar and other parts of the country have beautifully decorated and illuminated with colorful lights. President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister K.P.Sharma Oli have greeted the people of Nepal on the occasion of Chhath.The festival is dedicated to Sun God. Sun is very necessary for life on the earth. Chhath festival is a way to pay tribute to Lord Surya and seek his blessings for a long, healthy and prosperous life.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.
If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at firstname.lastname@example.org
We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.
We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge