Thursday, 20 October 2011

Chhath Puja: ThanksGiving Festival To Sun God

Thou by whose luster all the world of life comes forth, and by thy beams again returns unto its rest,  O surya with the golden hair, ascend for us day after day, and still bringing purer innocence – Rig Veda.   

View of lake at night
 Chatt is a key festival celebrated in Bihar, Jharkhand and the Terai regions of Nepal, India. Chhath is a festival of prayer and purity observed with somberness and strict discipline, an important Puja dedicated to Sun god. People pray to Sun god for their well being. There is a popular belief that worshiping Surya (Sun) will help in curing diseases and also ensure longevity and prosperity of the family. Chhath Puja is performed to thank Surya (Sun) for sustaining life on earth. The devotees believe that their wishes are always granted.

Devotees are ready to perfom evening puja

Ladies worshipping Sun God
During my childhood days, I use to visit my maternal grandparents house to attend this festival. Chhath Puja remindes me of my childhood visits to talabs to witness the merriment in the air. My friends, my brother and I would team up with families observing the puja and we’d collectively proceed to the talab. We would watch the puja patiently, waiting for it to get over while our mouths would water for the delicacies. Today when I see it in TV, I smile while remembering the struggle that used to ensue as kids amidst my group of friends to get a better glimpse of the devotees offering the puja and, on days that followed, amongst my siblings and cousins for grabbing as many sweets as possible.

Chhath Puja in Mumbai sea beach

Chhat is dedicated to Lord Surya and Lord Karthikeya / Subramanya. The festival is celebrated for four days in the Hindu month of Karthika. October – November according to Gregorian calendar. Chhath Puja (Dala Chhath Pooja) is observed on the sixth day of Kartik Month.

Early Morning Puja
The first day is known as Nahai Khai (bathe and eat), second day is Kharna, third day is Chhat Sandhya Argh , and the last day is Chhatt Suryodaya Argh. Chhat Puja is an important festival for the people of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, Chhat is observed as Surya Shashti.
The occasion is almost a carnival. Besides the parvaitin, there are friends and family, and numerous participants and onlookers, all willing to help and receive the blessings of the worshipper. Ritual rendition of regional folk songs, carried on through oral transmission from mothers and mothers-in-law to daughters and daughters-in-law, are sung on this occasion. The folk songs sung on the evening of Chhath reflect the culture, social structure, mythology and history of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Carnival scenario in Bihar during Chhath Puja

It is believed that ritual of Chhath puja may even predate the ancient Vedas texts, as the Rigveda contains hymns worshiping the Sun god and describes similar rituals. The rituals also find reference in the Sanskrit epic poem Mahabharata in which Draupadi is depicted as observing similar rites.
It is also believed that Chhath was started by Karna, the son of Surya Putra Karna who ruled over the Anga Desh (present day Bhagalpur district of Bihar) during the Mahabharat Age. He was a great warrior and fought against the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra War.
Its yogic/scientific history dates back to the Vedic times. The rishis of yore used this method to remain without any external intake of food as they were able to obtain energy directly from the sun’s rays. This was done through the Chhath method. This has been stated in the book Sri Chhath Mahaviggyaan (The Science of Chhath) by Yogishri Oumkaar.

Puja started at Dawn
Folklores and hymns are sung with somber hues on the banks of the Holy Ganges or any fresh watery body. Lamps are offered to the Ganges upon which millions of lamps are seen lit and thousands of hands are seen with offering of ‘Arghya’ till the late night. Following this the devotees return home and have grand celebrations with singing and feasting. Special pujas with sugarcanes are conducted in home for Agni deva (god of fire). Then fast is broken by eating ‘Prasadam’ or sanctified food.

A Dip for Faith

People pray to the Sun god for their well-being. They have ardent faith that by observing Chhat puja one gets his wishes fulfilled. They also believe that this vrat helps in curing diseases and ensures longevity and prosperity of the family.


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