Chhath Pooja

Chhath Pooja-Bihar
Chhath Puja is celebrated mainly in Bihar, Utter Pradesh, Utteranchal and Jharkhand, now a days, you can see a celebration almost everwhere in India. The festival takes place, on the banks of the River Ganges, in people’s homes and at the Sun Temple of Baragaon, two kilometers outside Nalanda, in Bihar.  

Chhath or Surya Puja is the main festival of Bihar. This festival is held after six days of Diwali. Chhath is a festival of prayer and propitiation observed with solemnity. It is an expression of thanks giving and seeking the blessings from the forces of nature, mainly the Sun and river. The belief is that a devotee’s desire is always fulfilled during Chhath. In this festival, the people worship the Sun God. On the first day, the house is thoroughly cleaned, family members go in for a holy dip and eat strict vegetarian food and sleep on the floor. All earthen vessels are reserved for this day only. The person observing the Chaath also known as Parvati, observes dawn to dusk fast which concludes with sweets. This is followed by another fast for 36 Hours till the dawn of the final day when puja starts at the river bank much before sunrise. These parvatis remain in water from late midnight until the first ray of dawn. The rivers are flooded with offerings to the sun which is followed by breakfast and distribution among the gatherings. Fresh paddy, sweets and fruits are also offered by the devotees to the Sun God for a good harvest at the sun temple in Baragaon near Nalanda.

Chhat, the thanksgiving festival dedicated to the Sun God for bestowing the bounties of life in earth and fulfilling everyone’s wishes, started in Patna on November 3 with Kharna ritual. The festival is significant for married women in specific, as they observe a two-day fast and offer prayers standing waist-deep in water and offer fruits and flowers to Surya, the Sun God. In Patna on this day several married women observed dawn to dusk fast marking ‘Kharna’ for the long life of husband and son and mark the first day of the three-day Chhat Puja.The occasion is celebrated specifically by people of Bihar and also by those living in particular parts of the neighboring Uttar Pradesh State.

Chhat Puja acts as a unifying force both socially and culturally. In Patna, large number of devotees thronged market to make last minute purchase for the Chhat Puja in Patna. Chhat Puja holds great significance, as it is said to be Biharis’ main festival and thus celebrated with full gaiety. “Chhat is the main festival. Today is Kharna, the festival of ‘Kheer’ and ‘Puri’ (which signifies the beginning of Chhat puja). They have returned after taking bath in the Ganga river. They have come to buy fruits.

Chhath is a way to be grateful to the Sun for giving the bounties of life on earth and for the fulfillment of wishes of believers. It is a festival of reverence to the solar deity, the only festival in the world where devotees offer salutations to the setting sun. Unlike Holi or Diwali, Chhath is a festival of prayer and appeasement observed with somberness, a festival that should not be missed. It is held in high esteem and regard.

Chhath is the festival of truth, non-violence, forgiveness and compassion. It is a festival celebrated by the Biharis on the sixth day of the lunar month after Diwali every year usually a 4 day long celebration accompanied by rituals or “Suryashashthi’. The rituals usually consist of fasting, folklore, hymns, together with the somber hues on the banks of the celestial Ganga or any fresh watery body. For example “Chhat Maiya” is celebrated on the banks of the river Ganga in Patna and on Yamuna in Delhi. A million lit lamps with thousands hands offering ‘Arghya’ to the sun makes it a delightful sight. The enormous faith in Chhat Puja has made it one of the most popular festivals this region.
Time(indian calendar Tithi):
Best time to visit: Chhath Puja takes place, sometime during the months of October and November, Holi.Hindu lunar month of Kartik
Bihar climate in general is tropical with hot summers and cold winters. There are regional variations. Some parts of the state like Ranchi,Netarhat, and Parasnath have pleasant climate even during the summers. Maximum rainfall takes place during the months from July to September accounting for more than 90% of total rainfall in the state.
The ancient Sanskrit epic Mahabharata has references to Draupadi, wife of the Pandavas, worshipping the sun, which was believed to help cure a variety of diseases, including leprosy, and ensure longevity and prosperity of family members, friends, and elders. In addition, it is believed that Chhath was started by Karna, the son of Surya, who became a great warrior and fought against the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra War.
Importance of festival:
The Puja holds great importance in our lives and we celebrate it with great devotion.They buy banana, apple, lemon, coconut and gorgan nut to mark the puja. Chatth has a great importance in Bihar and it is being celebrated as per the traditions.People bathe at Ghats, the riverbanks, and pay obeisance to both the rising and the setting sun during the festival. It is celebrated on the sixth and seventh days after Diwali, the festival of lights. Dancing on the tunes of the devotional songs,people offer fruits and flowers to please the Sun God.
Method of Celebration:
Surya: The sun (the Sun God is worshipped during the festival of Chhath Puja).   Chhath: In the context of Chhath Puja, Chhath refers to the number six and the importance of this date on the Indian festival calendar Puja: Various interpretations exist of the word “puja,” including worship with offerings, especially of flowers, and ritual anointment with sandalwood paste. Puja is the combination of the Sanskrit words for sin and birth.

Prasad: Prasad: Ritual offerings. Puris: This deep-fried bread, made from wheat flour, is traditionally offered at the festival of Chhath Puja. Thekuwa: This is a wheat-based cake served during the festival of Chhath Puja.

Almost immediately after the merriment of Diwali subsided, the solemnity of Chhath takes over. Adult married women of the household make all the preparations that are required for the puja. While the younger women and children take over the everyday household chores, these women begin with a thorough spring-cleaning of all the things that would be used to prepare the prasad or food offerings to the Sun God. Everything, from the kitchen chulha to the ladles, cooking wok, and, frying pan, is purified.

It is the bounty of the harvest, which is deemed a fit offering to the Sun god. Newly pounded rice is soaked and made into a paste. Dry fruits, nuts and slivers of coconut are used as flavoring and the cooked lump is then rolled in the palms, into hardened laddoos. Wheat flour becomes the main ingredient for the traditional cake called thekuwa. The dough is cut into shapes or pressed into wooden moulds before they are fried a crisp deep brown, to be eaten as a crumbling mouthful. Generous amounts of clarified butter, oodles of jaggery and coconut shavings go into this equivalent of the cookie.
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Culture of festivities:
On the day before the festival of Chhath Puja, it is customary for participants to gather on the riverbanks and cleanse themselves, briefly, in the water of the River Ganges.After cleansing, a token amount of sacred water is retained for use as offerings during the festival of Chhath Puja.Before Chhath Puja, people fast throughout the day and into the early evening.The fast is followed by worship in the home. Festive fare consisting of freshly harvested rice, puris (a local bread type delicacy), and fruit such as bananas, coconuts and grapefruit are then served to the family.On the second day of Chhath Puja a strict 24-hour fast is observed; not even water is consumed.
Cooking utensils are purified by the senior women of the household, as part of the ritual preparation of offerings for the main part of the celebration of Chhath Puja.At sunset, worshippers proceed to the riverbank bearing their offerings in baskets held high to avoid the impure touch of human hands.The participants then pay homage to the Sun God, at the precise moment of the setting sun.Further celebrations take place at nightfall under temporary canopies made from sugar cane stalks where offerings are laid out as a tribute to the god of fire.Well before sunrise, when the sky is pitch black, worshippers return to the riverbank to pray to the rising sun; this ritual is considered the focal point of the ceremony of Chhath Puja.Following prayers and the purifying bathing ritual, the fast is ended with the offering, or prasad, to the Sun God.Offerings are then shared with families, friends and fellow worshippers, accompanied by the chanting of the Rig Veda Gayatri Mantra to the Sun God.
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