Chhath Puja is an ancient Hindu Vedic festival. Chhath puja is performed on kartika Shukla Shahsthi, which is the sixth day of the month of Kartika in the Vikram Samvat. This falls typically in the month of October or November in the Gregorian English Calendar.
It is celebrated mainly in Bihar, Eastern Uttar Pradesh of India and in Nepal. It mainly originated in Bihar. The Chhath Puja is dedicated to the Sun and his wife Usha to thank them for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes. The God of energy and of the life-force, Jeet is worshiped during the Chhath festival to promote well-being, prosperity and progress. Sun worship is believed to help cure a variety of diseases, including leprosy, and helps ensure the longevity and prosperity of family member. This festival continues for 4 days. This includes holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water, standing in water for long periods of time, and offering prashad and arghya to the setting and rising sun. Chhath is the eco-friendliest festival.
Duration of Chhath Puja
The chhath Puja is on 27th October. This four-day festival will begin on 24th October to 27th October. It is also celebrated in summers, this is called Chaiti chhath. The word Chhath is derived from Sanskrit sasthi, meaning sixth. It is very important festival after Navratri.
Rituals carried during the festivities
On the 4th day after Diwali this festival starts. On this day, people who keep fast take bath in pond or river and prepare lunch. The second day is also known as kharna, this day kheer and roti is prepared. The people observe fast for the full day without taking even water and eat 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 of chhath. The devotees maintain 'nirjal vrat' on the third day. It mainly consists of going on river bank and offering 'argha' and surya namaskar to the setting sun followed by the next day event of offering argha and surya namaskar to the rising sun on the fourth or last day of chhath. The fast is then come to end after offering argha to rising sun. In this way, nearly 42 hours of strict penance comes to an end.
Draupadi and the pandavas, rulers of Indraprastha, performed the Chhath ritual on the advice of noble sage Dhaumya. Through her worship of the Sun God, Draupadi was not only able to solve her immediate problems, but also helped the Pandavas later regain their lost kingdom.
Another history behind celebrating the Chhath puja is the story of Lord Rama. It is considered that Lord Rama and Sita had kept this fast and offered puja to the Lord Sun in the month of Kartika after returning to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. From that time, chhath puja became the significant and traditional festival in the Hindu religion and started being celebrated.
Difference in the Rituals
There are few differences in rituals and traditions which have been observed between devotees performing Chhath Puja in Northern parts of Bihar and those of South Bihar. The north and south Bihar are divided by the river Ganges and so is the distinction between regions. Some traditions of the Puja are quite strict in North Bihar whereas it is more liberal in South Bihar. In general, it is the tradition that Thekua which is the Prasad should be strictly prepared on "mitti chulha" by using clean "wood sticks" as the fuel. This is religiously followed in most of the places except urban areas where firewood is unavailable.