Chhath Pooja one of the ancient Hindu festival dedicated to Chhathi Maiya (known as Usha in Vedas) and Sun God, to promote happiness, prosperity and progress.
This is the most important festival of Bihar/Jharkhand and people are so emotionally connected to the festival that it’s prevalent in places where people from this region has migrated. Nowadays it’s also celebrated at the ghats of Yamuna in Delhi, lakes/creeks in Mumbai and other parts of India indicating its presence across the country.
This festival is celebrated on the sixth day of Kartika i.e. six days after Diwali, falling between October last to mid November. There is also a “Chaiti Chhath” celebrated just after Holi during Chaitra Navratri in the month of Chaitra (March last to mid April), but is not as significant as Chhath in month of Karthik.
The festival of Chhath is about worship, devotion, sacrifice, prayer and purity. The preparation starts just after Diwali. Since special importance is given to purity, everything is cleaned, washed, sprinkled with gangajal (the holy water from river Ganga). The ghats are renovated and restored and floors mopped with gobar(cow dung). All the Hindus in Bihar and Jharkhand, stop eating non-vegetarian food during the festival. Some even don’t eat onion and garlic.
The person who takes the responsibility of performing Chhath, also called Parvaitin, takes only one meal in 3 days and that also in the form of prasadam and fasts continuously for 36 hours. The Parvaitin is treated like a Goddess during this period and people take her blessing.
The festival lasts for four days and celebrated as below:
- Nahay Khay: The opening day of festival is about bath and eat and sets the mood for the big festival.
- Lohanda and Kharna: The first day of fast. Pooja and prayer is performed of Chhathi Maiya and then the Parvaitin can break her fast. Everyone in the family then eats the prashad and kheer-puri.
- Sandhya Argh: This is the day of praying the setting sun and thanking him of all his blessings and year that went by.
- Suryodaya Argh/Paran: The rising sun is worshipped for having a good year ahead. The parbaitin wakes up early in the morning, before sunrise, takes bath, raise the arag again by standing in water, do all the pooja and break the fast. People eat prashad and visit each others house to take blessings from parbaitins.
In ancient time the festival of Chhath was performed by Draupdi, the wife of “Pandavas” king of Hastinapur. The worship of Sun God, helped her solve all her problem and Pandavas regain his lost kingdom.
Chhath is not just a physical attachment to the people of Bihar, Infact, it’s presents in their hearts, and this is why the people bring the festival wherever they have migrated.
The festival is celebrated with an aim to express thanks to Sun God for offering energy to earth continuously enabling the environment suitable for the people to live.
In the evening arghya, people express their thanks to Sun God for its work in growing their crops during the preceding year and morning arghya is considered as a request for a bountiful crop, peace and prosperity in the year to come.
The main constituent of the offerings are Thekua, which is a wheat based cake, fruits like banana, apple etc, ginger, sugarcane etc.
The rituals of the festival are rigorous.
In northern part of Bihar, there is also a custom of setting elephants made of clay and decorating it with pots and diyas and surrounding it with sugarcane plants. Offering food like sugarcane, paddy, thekua etc to the clay elephant in clay utensil. The number of elephants established during the festival range from one to twenty one. This number depends of the happiness and blessing that the family gets during the year. The whole setup is mesmerizing and sets a total environment for pious and prayer.
Go anywhere in the region during Chhath and you will feel the difference. Not only the place where pooja is done and the ghats look different. In the market, you will find sellers selling sugarcane, ginger and other essentials for the pooja. The samitis take initiative of cleaning the ghats, decorating it with series bulb and halogen lights and tube lights in multiple color. The festival is so close to the heart of people that some prosperous farmer even distribute yards of sugarcane farm for free to the poor.
The best place to observe this festival is city of Patna, Bihar where it is celebrated at real grandeur and massive arrangement is done. The city being situated on the bank of Ganga, makes the festival even more significant. Another important place for Chhath is the village of Barhgaon, located few kilometers from Nalanda, the place famous for it’s University. So if sometime you are planning for visit to Nalanda, plan is during the festival of Chhath and you will never regret the decision.
If you are traveling to Bihar/Jharkhand during this festival, ensure that you have already made your travel arrangements because the public transport totally collapses as the city goes into celebration mode. The national highways gets deserted and very few buses run. They also charge hefty money and gets packed to the max.
Until you make it to Bihar/Jharkhand, to see the festival, you can definitely find it in your city. If you are in Bangalore, you can head to Sankey Tank, in the early morning of Paran and join the celebration. Feel free to reach any Parvaitin over there for the prashadam and she will offer it to you with smile and lots of blessings. This year Paran falls on October 30. If planning to go, ensure that you reach there by 6 in the morning. If you cannot go in the morning, be there on evening of October 29, 2014 before sunset. But you will miss the unique prashad if you go in the evening.
Happy Chhath pooja to all. Jai Chhathi Maiya!! Jai Surooj devta!!