Rituals and Significance of Chhath Pooja (Pratihar) Festival

Chhath-poojaVedas 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”, 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.

Also Read: Recipe of Thekua Eaten in Chhath Festival

It is a grandest festival for Bihar, Jharkhand and certain regions of Uttar Pradesh and Nepal.

Chhath Puja rituals start on the sixth day of Hindu calendar month, Kartika. Chhath means sixth in Nepali, Maithili and Bhojpuri languages. Also, Chhath  refers to the process of consciously obtaining the solar energy through 6 stages involving the methods similar to Hath Yog. Hath here refers to the austerities like fasting, standing in water, etc.

Chhath is celebrated for the span of four days . Prayers are offered to the Sun god, devotees observe fasting and take dips into the holy waters of Ganga.

Here’s everything you need to know about the legend, significance and rituals around Chhath Puja.

Why Chhath pooja is celebrated?

Commonly two epic tales are related to the celebration of Chhath pooja are Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Ramayana

Lord Rama was 64th heir of Ikshwaku Dynasty (Suryavanshi). On returning to Ayodhya after the exile, Lord Rama and Sita observed a fast in honour of the Sun god and broke it only at the break of dawn next day– a ritual that subsequently evolved into the Chhath Puja.

Mahabharata

Kunti was awarded a boon by Sage Durvasa. She wanted to test the potency of the boon awarded to her and invoked the Sun God, who awarded her with a son, Karna born with luminous celestial ear-rings and golden armor on his body. Karna religiously offered his prayers while standing in the water and distributed prasad among the needy.

Yet another story mentions that Draupadi and the Pandavas perform the Chhath rituals (worshipping Sun God) on the advice of noble sage Dhaumya in order to regain their lost kingdom, Indraprastha (modern Delhi).

Rituals Performed During Chhath Pooja

Day 1: Naha Kha/ Nahaye Khaye

Naha Kha/ Nahaye Khaye means bath and eat. On the first day of Chhath, devotees consume only one meal  after taking bath. Food items like chane ki daal, kheer, kaddu ki sabzi are prepared specially on this day. On the first day of Chhath Puja, devotees take a dip in the river Kosi, Karnali or Ganga and bring home the holy water from these rivers to prepare the offerings.

Day 2: Kharna (One Day Before of Chhath Pooja)

Devotees fast till the Kharna puja concludes. After which a combination of jaggery-laden kheer and puris is offered to the gods and distributed among those who had observed the fast. After taking the meal in the evening, they go on a fast without water for the next 36 hours.

Day 3: Pehla Arghya (On the Day of Chhath Pooja)

Make “Argyam” – water offering to sun. Devotees observe a fast where they neither consume water nor food from dusk to dawn. They offer Prasad and Arghya to setting Lord Surya.

Goddess Chhathi Maiya is worshipped during Chhath Puja along with God Sun. She is also known as Usha in the Vedas. She is considered to be the beloved younger wife of Surya.

Day 4: Doosra Arghya/ Paaran

On the fourth and final day, the devotees go to riverbanks, water bodies, artificial water pools or ponds along with family and friends, break their long fast after offering prayers to the rising Sun.

Why does the chhath process take into account only sunrise and sunset periods

Sunrise and sunset are the periods during which, majority of humans can safely obtain the solar energy directly from the Sun. That is why, in Chhath pooja, there is a tradition of offering arghya to Sun in late evening and in early morning. During these phases (one hour window after sunrise and before sunset), the ultraviolet radiation levels remain in safe limits.

Happy Chhath Pooja

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