Chhath Puja

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Chhath puja is performed on Kartik Shukala Shashti, which is the sixth day of the month of Kartik as per the Hindu calender,exactly six days after Diwali festival.It comes in the month of October or November. Chhath,also known as Surya Shashti,is an ancient Hindu Festival dedicated tothe Hindu Sun God, Surya.The Chhath Puja is performed in gratitude of Surya for mentaining life on the earth and to fulfilling certain wishes.

The Sun, beleived as the god of energy and life, is worshiped for the longetivity, prosperity and progress of the family.It is also celebrated in the summer (March - April), on Chaitra Shashti, some days after Holi this event is called Chaiti Chhath.

It is mentioned in the epic Mahabharat that the Pandavas and Draupadi performed the Chhat-pooja and regained the kingdom.It is also beleived that Chhat-pooja was started bysurya -putra and a great warrior,Karna,the son of the Sun.

Karna was the prince of Anga Desh (presently Bhagalpur, Bihar,India) and was a close mate of Duryodhana.

The rishis of ancient times remained without intake of food as they were capable of obtaining energy directly from the sun's rays,by performing the Chhat-pooja. Chhat-Poojais observed mostly by the inhabitants of Bihar,Jharkhand and the Terai regions of Nepal,who carried forward this festival to the places where they further migrated.Nowdays it is celebrated in major urban centers of India and also abroad, in UK,USA,Autralia,Canada,Singapore,Malaysia and New Zealand.

Rituals & Traditions

Chhath is a bathing festival of four days. During this period, the worshiper observes ritual purity, and sleeps on the floor on a single blanket.During Chhat-pooja the worshippers offer their prayers to the setting sun and then the rising sun.The state of Bihar in India has many Sun temples with sacred pool of the Sun,for the celebration of this festival.

The main worshipers usually are women,however, a large number of men also observe this festival. The devotees pray for the happiness and prosperity of their family. Once a family starts performing Chhatt Puja, it is their duty to perform it every year and to pass it on to the following generations.

The celebration can only be skipped in case of any tragedies or mishaps in the family. The prasad offerings include sweets and fruit served in small containers made up of bamboos. The food is strictly vegetarian and it is cooked without garlic,onion and salt.

The four days Of Chhath Pooja

Day 1:Nahakha (sacred bath and food)-

The devotees take a dip, in the holy river Ganga or other similar sacred place and carry home the holy water to purify the house and surroundings.It is also used for the preparation of the offerings.The devotees eat only one meal.

Day 2:Kharna (the day prior to Chhath)-

This is the fasting day which is the Panchami, the day before Chhath.The fasting ends in the evening soon after the sunset. After the worship of earth, the 'Prasad' offering consisting of kheer (rice item),puris and bananas, are distributed to the devotees present.

Day 3:ChhathSanjhiya Arghya (evening offerings)-

On this day the offerings (Prasad)are prepared at home. In the evening of this day,all the family memners accompanies the worshippers to the riverbank, pond or a common large water body to make the offerings (Aragh) to the setting sun.During this time traditional folk songs are sung by the women,which reflects the culture,mythology and history of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

This is celebrated especially in those families where shortly marriage or childbirth has taken place. On the night of the third day this colorful event is celebrtaed by lighting the earthen lamps under a canopy of five sugarcane sticks.The lighted lamps signify the solar energy.The five sticks signify the human body made of Panchatatva (earth, water, fire, air and ether). After that, it is done at the banks of the river on day four before making the offerings to the rising sun.

Day 4: Parna (the day after Chhath)

On the final day of Chhath Puja, the devotees, along with family and friends, go to the riverbank before sunrise, in order to make the offerings (Aragh) to the rising sun. The festival ends with the breaking of the fast by the parvaitin and friends visiting the houses of the devotees to receive the 'Prasad'.

With all these rituals,the flavour of the festival and fasting comes to an endwhich is the time for feasting for everyone.Devotees return home while singing the devotional folk songs with the renewed vigour and belief that Sun god will take care of all their worries and He will give them health, happiness, prosperity and longetivity.

The Benefits of Chhath-Pooja

* The Chhath process is good for mental discipline and detoxification which results in positive. The fasting paves the way for detoxification at a material level.

* Detoxification also regularises the flow of blood, makes the person more energetic and anger, jealousy, and other negative emotions are reduced.

* The detoxification methods such as pranayam, meditation, yoga and Chhath,reduces the toxins present in the body to a great extent.

* It improves eyesight and mentains the skin texture

* The Chhath process improves the immunity of the body.

* The sunlight helps cure fungal and bacterial infections of the skin.

* The solar energy balances the hormonal secretion.

* The relaxed mind becomes creative.

* The will power is increased and the mind becomes strong and controlled.

* Cleanliness of the food and environment is practised by the devotees.