The Tale of Chhath Puja: A Colorful Emotion For Biharis

Anyone who lives outside travels back to their hometown just to attend this mega festival of Chhath Puja and what makes this festival significant not only from a historical point of view but scientifically as well, let us try to understand this by reading ahead.

Chhath Puja, the “master of all festivals” celebrated since the Vedic era is not only a festival but an emotion for Biharis that forces them to come back to their hometown or village just to attend this mega festival along with their family and society. It is a festival that gives the message of unity and integrity as people from all castes and classes gather near the river bank or pond to offer worship. So what are the key features of this beautiful festival and why it’s an emotion for Biharis, let us try to understand via this piece.

The festival is mainly celebrated in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and in some parts of Nepal. But now, it has been widely spread to other parts of India, where people from these regions reside. The biggest example is our national capital, New Delhi, where the government makes special arrangements for Chhath Puja so that people can celebrate it with full joy. Visuals came in 2020 from the US, where 600 members of the Indian-American community performed Chhath Puja’s rituals at Lake Manalapan.

Rituals Performed:

The word ‘Chhath’ literally means six, which refers to the puja is to be done on the sixth day of the Hindi month of Kartikey. The devotees gather near a riverbank, pond or any other water body to offer rituals of worshipping Lord Surya and his wife Shashti Devi (who is very commonly known as Chhathi Maiya). The entire rituals of this festival take four days to complete. Fasting is the most crucial part of this festival and the people who do fast are called Vrati.

The four days of this mega festival are:

  1. Nahay Khay: This is the first day of Chhath Puja and it will be observed on 08th November for this year. The word ‘Nahay’ refers to bath and ‘Khay’ refers to eating. It means that the house is being cleaned and after taking bath, food is kept in front of God and then the entire family eats it.
  1. Rasiaav Roti: This is the second day of Puja and will be observed on 09th November. On this day, the fasting rules are so strict that the Vrati cannot even drink a single drop of water. But in the evening, they can eat Gur Ki Kheer (Kheer made up of Jaggery), also called Rasiaav along with Roti (Chapati).
  1. Sandhya Arghya: This is the third day of Puja and one of the most exciting and different rituals is performed on the day. Worship of Dusk is common but on this day, the worship of Dawn takes place which is unique in itself. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi once applauded this tradition by saying:

“Everyone worships the rising sun, but Chhath is the only festival where the setting sun is also worshipped.”

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India said during his speech in 2014.

The arghya is performed using a bamboo made basket known as ‘soop’ in which thekua, fruits, sweets and some other things are offered to the sun mainly by the Vrati and also by the rest of the family members.

  1. Usha Arghya: This is the last day of the mega Chhath Puja and its rituals are performed in the early morning when the devotees reach the same spot of Sandhya Arghya and offer arghya to the rising sun by offering milk and water to the Chhathi Maiya. This day is also known as ‘Parana’ which means the end of fasting.

Historical Significance:

Since Chhath Puja is an ancient festival and has several mentions in our Vedas, there are many instances when this ritual was performed that signify the greatness of this festival. In Ramayan, Lord Ram and Goddess Sita kept fast to make Chhathi Maiya happy on the sixth day after their arrival to Ayodhya which resulted in Sita being blessed by Luv and Kush as their sons.

Another belief is that Chhath Puja was celebrated by Draupadi and Pandavas to solve their problems and to gain back their lost kingdom. The next belief says that the offspring of Lord Surya and Kunti, Karna, was used to perform rituals of Chhath Puja. Karna was the ruler of Anga Desh, which is present-day Bhagalpur, Bihar. 

This festival is not only significant from the historical point of view but also the scientific point of view. The worship of the sun can be seen as a mark of respect to this wonderful creation of the universe that enlightens our day. Also, the medical sciences tell us that the exposure of our skin to sunlight leads to the creation of Vitamin-D into our body which is a very crucial element for our growth. 

Moreover, the rituals of Chhath Puja develop a sense of mental purity in the devotees and the Vrati who do fasting undergo a biochemical change that detoxifies their body as well as mind.

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Feature Image Credits: Steffen Gauger 

Chirag Jha

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I have a deep interest for writing and exploring things around and I also have a keen interest for nation, politics and policy.