Significance of Chhath Puja

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Google Plus Share to Google Plus Share to Google Plus Add to Favourites

Sun is considered to be the creator of the material universe and has been worshipped in India since the early Vedic times. Worship of Surya “is supposed to cure a variety of diseases, including leprosy, besides ensuring the longevity and prosperity of family members, friends and elders”. Personally speaking worship of Surya gives me energy, vitality, positive energy and imbibes in me the desire to share selflessly just like the Sun does.

 

Chhath Puja is dedicated to Surya Devata and his wife, Goddess Chhathi Maiya known as USHA in the Vedas. Their worship during this festival is to express gratitude for sustaining and supporting life on earth, help us overcome problems and continue showering their blessings. 

 

Chhath Puja is four day long festival which includes rigorous worshipping, fasting and Arghya (offerings) to Surya. Chhath puja is observed on Kartika Shukla Shashthi, which is the sixth day of the month Kartika. “The word chhath is derived from number six in Nepali, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Hindi and local dialects and the festival is celebrated on the sixth day of the Kārtika month of the Hindu lunar calendar.” 

Lakhs of devotees celebrate the festival and follow certain rituals on all four days. This includes bathing in the Ganga or equivalent, fasting, not drinking water even, standing in the water and praying / making offerings to both the rising and setting sun. Devotees observe complete or partial fasting. During fasting (vrata) period, one must remain clean, be truthful and practice self-control. Many devotees fast for almost thirty six hours during this festival and that too without water. 

 

Chhath is observed most elaborately in Bihar, Jharkhand, Eastern Uttar Pradesh and parts of Nepal. With Biharis all over the country today Chhath puja is celebrated in nearly every part of India. It is also celebrated in countries like Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Jamaica etc possibly because large number of Biharis settled there during the 19 and 20th centuries. Note that “The exact date of the festival is decided by Central division of Janakpurdham in Nepal which is applicable all over the world.

History of Chhath Puja 

Chhath Puja is one of the oldest surviving festivals. It is widely believed that the rituals of this festival may predate ancient Vedic texts, as the Rigveda contains hymns worshipping Surya Devata and describes similar rituals.

 

The festival also finds mention in the Mahabharata. Draupadi, wife of the Pandavas was an ardent devotee of Surya Devata, who on the advice of sage Dhaumya performed similar rituals.

 

Another reason for celebrating this festival is the story of Shri Ram. According to tradition Shri Ram and Devi Sita had fasted together, worshipped Surya Devata and performed Chhath puja rituals on returning to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. Since then Chhath Puja became an important Hindu festival i.e. celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervour every year.

Rituals of Chhath Puja

All the rituals are performed on the banks of holy rivers. “Chhath is a festival of bathing and worshipping that follows a period of abstinence and segregation of the worshipper from the main household for four days.” It is the time for self-control and abandoning world pleasures. 

 

Chhath is essentially a festival of nature hence most of items used in the puja are natural and eco-friendly in a contemporary sense. The rituals of Chhath puja have a scientific basis as we shall read later.

The festival is celebrated over four days. Day wise details are as follows

1. Day 1 is Nahay- Khay (Bathe and Eat)

Devotees wake up early and take a cleansing dip (a ceremonial bath) in the Ganga or nearby river. The house is cleaned and arrangements made for puja. Holy water of the Ganga is brought home to be used in preparation of food items (Prasad) for puja. Some observe full day fast while others take only one meal on this day. The ladies who observe the vrat (fast) are known as vratin. The food items for prasad typically include puri, kheer, kaddu-bhat, channa dal and bananas. The home esp. cooking area is kept very clean.

2. Day 2 is Lohanda and Kharna

On the second day of Chhath Puja, the vratin observe fast for the full day i.e. broken after carrying out a special puja of Surya Devata at sunset. This fasting is referred as ‘Kharna’. 

 

“The whole day is spent preparing for the festival, shopping essentials like sugarcane, fruits and other things. Later in the evening, vrattis prepare special Prasad called Rasiao-kheer (a type of sweet dish with the help of jiggery, rice and milk) and chapattis. With these specially made Prasad and fruits like banana, radish, green ginger, bettle leaves and spices like black cardamom and cloves, Vrattis worship Chhathi Maiya and offer these Prasad. After puja the vratti breaks their fast by eating the Prasad and later on it is distributed among family and friends.” Source www.chhath.org  

 

With the ceremonial breaking of the fast (vrata) after sunset, the Vratins go on a fast again without water for 36 hours i.e. after the 2nd day evening prasad (kheer).

 

3. Day 3 is Sandhya Arghya

This day is spent preparing prasad (offerings) at home. In the evening the vratins go to the river bank and makes an offering to the setting sun. Most vratins perform these rituals along with their friends and family members. At night, an exciting event of lighting the lamps of clay ‘diyas’ under the covering of five sugarcane sticks takes place on river banks. Diyas floating on the river look like numerous stars on the water. Thousands of devotees and tourists gather at river Ganga to witness this special ceremony.

4. Day 4 is Prayer of Surya

Devotees wake up at the crack of dawn, go to the riverbank before sunrise and offer bhorwa arghya (morning offerings) to the rising Sun. Devotees then worship Chhathi Maiya After offering prasad to all the deities, devotees break their fast by having ginger and water. This is followed by Chhath prasad. This marks the end of all the festivities of Chhath puja.

 

During the festivals ladies sing traditional Chhath songs. Music and singing calms and rejuvenates the mind.

The Scientific aspects of Chhath puja

‘Chhath' is a combination of two Hindi words - 'Chah', means six and 'Hath' refers to the science of austerity (hath yoga). Combined together, Chhath means the process of obtaining powerful solar energy through six stages. As mentioned in several religious texts, Chhath puja rituals create a powerful scientific process which can be divided into six stages of the Conscious Cosmic Solar Energy Infusion Technique.

 

Fasting and the strict discipline of cleanliness lead to detoxification of the body and mind. It also make the body and mind ready to accept solar energy. Standing in river with half the body in water decreases the amount of leaked energy and aids the prana (psychic energy) to travel up to the Sushumna nadi (psychic channel in the spine). The cosmic solar energy then enters in the pineal, pituitary and hypothalamus glands (popularly known as the Triveni complex) by the retina and optic nerves. After the activation of Triveni complex, spine gets polarized by solar energy. It is believed that this step-by-step process can also lead to the awakening of the latent psychic energy (Kundalini Shakti).  When ‘Kundalini Shakti’ is awakened the body becomes a cosmic power channel which can transmit the energy into the entire world.

 

Chhath - a festival of cure

 

The Sun is the original source of Vitamin D.  The sun is believed to bring relief from a number of serious ailments, including leprosy. These rituals (especially ‘Arghya ‘at sunset and sunrise) in the form of sun worshipping allow maximum absorption of Vitamin D which is crucial for the calcium assimilation in our body. Today many people living in metro cities suffer from vitamin D deficiency due to lack of exposure to the sun. 

 

Moreover, the fasting state also helps in the absorption of calcium from the food ingested earlier. Apart from this, all the food items used in Chhath puja Prasad are a rich source of calcium. In short, these four days of rituals increase the immunity level of the devotee and also aid the healing process. Therefore, Chhath is basically a festival of healing and cure.

 

The sun is the prime source of light and life to the entire world. The worshipping of Surya Devata at sunrise and sunset during Chhath is based on the fact that optimum solar energy can be obtained and harnessed during these periods. Apart from enhanced energy levels and immunity, Chhath rituals help in slowing down the ageing process as well.

 

Above all, the mystic and magical rituals of this festival provide mental peace to the devotees by detoxifying their body and soul.

 

Also read

1 All you wanted to know about Chhath Puja

2 Chhath Puja in pictures

3 Surya Yog 

4 Surya Martand Mandir Anantnag

5 Sun Temple Konarak

6 Surya Mandir Almora Kumaon 

7 Surya Mandir Modhera