“Chhath Puja” is a major Hindu festival celebrated in Indian subcontinent, most significantly in the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. The festival is also popularly known as “Dala Chhath, where “data” signifies a basket usually made of bamboo. The festival is also celebrated in other Indian states which have migratory population from the said states. It is also reverently celebrated in the central regions of Nepal called “Madhyadesh” in local dialects.Chhath Puja holds the distinction of being one and only Hindu festival which doesn’t involve idol worship. The festival mainly involves reverence of Sun God and his sister Chhathi Maiya, who is an incarnation of Goddess Parvathi, wife of Lord Shiva.
HISTORY OF CHHATH PUJA
The History of Chhath Puja goes back to centuries. The rituals of Chhath Puja are provided in many books, whereby one can track the line and link of this auspicious occasion.
The Chhath Puja in Bihar is said to have been started by the Brahmins of Dwipi origin. The kings of the region invited the Brahmins to worship lord Sun. It is believed that during the fast, these Brahmins would take energy from the sun by praying to Lord Surya. The hymns or the mantras recited during the festival are even found in the Rigveda, which is the ancient textbook of Hindus. Another version of the Bihar Chhath Puja is also seen in a chapter of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, where queen Draupadi observed her fast and prayed to Lord Sun after which she was able to solve her problems. It is even believed that the Pandavas also observed the fast and offered prayers to Lord Surya to regain their kingdom.
Best places to witness Chhath festival in Bihar
The uniqueness of Chhath Puja
In two ways, the rituals performed during Chhath puja are unique than any other Hindu festival. Firstly, it doesn’t involve any idol worship and secondly that it is the only festival which involves the worship of the setting Sun. Another, unique custom about Chhath puja is that the devotee observing it must continue the tradition for years after years without breaking it, broken only in case of a demise or a child birth in the family. The custom of Chhath puja must be passed on to the next generation and cannot be continued after a break; that is – it cannot stop once started and cannot start once stopped. Strict discipline of neatness and purity must be followed for preparation of Prasad offerings or food for devotees and companions. It is believed that even breaking a small rule could have adverse effect more than the benefits. Even helping someone perform the Chhath puja is considered a good omen.
Celebrations of Chhath Puja
The Chhath Puja, as it is celebrated today, lasts for over four days and it’s celebrated with much full pomp and show. It is observed by women for the longevity of their son.Chhath Puja is an ancient and traditional festival in Bihar. It is celebrated twice in a year. First, it is celebrated during the summers (after Holi) and the second time during winters (after Diwali). The Chhath observed during summers is known as Chaiti, and the one celebrated during winters is known as the Kartik Chhath. The fast during Chhath Puja lasts for three days without eating or drinking.Women who observe Chhath Puja find it easier to fast during the winters in comparison to summers as it is easy to stay without food and water. During the days of Chhath, Lord Surya is offered prayers twice in a day, during sun dawn and before sun set.
Many dishes are prepared during the Chhath Puja. Here are some special dishes only prepared during the days of the puja.
2.Green Chana Masala
RITUALS PERFORMED DURING CHHATH PUJA
The rituals are performed on the banks of a flowing river, where women take a dip, offer their prayers and observe all the rituals. The duration of the prayers is mostly for 2-3 hours. The Chhath Puja is similar to a carnival where the woman of the house comes forward to perform rituals. In addition, numerous onlookers and helpers look forward to attaining blessings during the auspicious occasion.
Women sing songs related to the puja while engaging in different rituals. These songs are mostly traditional and folk songs, which have been in existence since ages. As the river Ganges flows through Bihar, it is a pleasant view to see women observe the Chhath Puja because the river comes alive with thousands of oil lit lamps.
Importance of Chhath Prasad
The Chhath prasad is considered extremely pious and is prepared under immense supervision. It consists of sweet dishes such as kheer (mandatory), thekua (made using flour, milk, and ghee). Sweet lime, sugarcane, and banana are a must. Even the food prepared for the fasting devotees is cooked without salt and onion.