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Chhath

Chhath puja
Performing of morning puja to Surya around a pond
Official name No official name
Also called Chhathi
Chhath Parv
Chhath Puja
Dala Chhath
Dala Puja
Surya Shashthi
Observed by Hindu and Jain
Liturgical Color Bhagwa color related to Hinduism.
Type Cultural, Historical, Religious
Significance To thank Surya for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and fulfilling particular wishes
Observances Prayers and religious rituals, including puja and prasad, bathing in the Ganges and Sapta Koshi, and fasting
Begins 2 days prior to Kartik Shashthi
Ends The day after Kartik Shashthi
Date Kartik Shukla Shashthi
2015 date 15–18 November[1]
Frequency biannual (including Chaiti Chhath)

Chhath (Devanagari: छठ, छठी, छठ पर्व, छठ पुजा, डाला छठ, डाला पुजा, सुर्य षष्ठी) is an ancient Hindu festival of indian subcontinent and people of indian ethinicity and is the only Vedic Festival dedicated to the Hindu Sun God, Surya and Chhathi Maiya (ancient Vedic Goddess Usha).[2] The Chhath Puja is performed in order to thank Surya for sustaining life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes.[3]

The Sun, considered as the god of energy and of the life-force, is worshiped during the Chhath festival to promote well-being, prosperity and progress. In Hinduism, Sun worship is believed to help cure a variety of diseases, including leprosy, and helps ensure the longevity and prosperity of family members, friends, and elders.

The rituals of the festival are rigorous and are observed over a period of four days. They include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water (Vratta), standing in water for long periods of time, and offering prashad (prayer offerings) and arghya to the setting and rising sun.

Although the festival is observed most elaborately in Mithila Region of Nepal and Terai Region of Nepal including Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern UP, and is more prevalent in areas where migrants from those areas have a presence, It is celebrated in all Northern regions and major Northern urban centers in India bordering Nepal. The festival is celebrated in the regions including but not exclusive to the northeast region of India, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Gujarat,[4] Delhi,[5] Mumbai[6] Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and Jamaica. [7]

Contents

  • Date of the festival 1
    • Etymology 1.1
  • History 2
  • Chhathi Maiya 3
  • Rituals and traditions 4
    • Nahay khay 4.1
    • Lohanda and Kharna 4.2
    • Sandhya Arghya (evening offerings) 4.3
    • Usha Arghya (morning offerings) 4.4
  • Pictures of Chhath Puja 5
  • References 6

Date of the festival

Chhath puja is performed on Kartika Shukla Shashthi, which is the sixth day of the month of Kartika in the shaka calendar . This falls typically in the month of October or November in the Gregorian English Calendar.

It is also celebrated in the summer (March–April), on Chaitra Shashthi, some days after Holi; this event is called Chaiti Chhath.[8] The former is more popular because winter is the usual festive season in India and also in Nepal. Chhath, being an arduous observance, requiring the worshipers to fast without water for around 36 hours continuously.

Etymology

The word chhath denotes the number six in Nepali, Maithili, Bajika, Bhojpuri, Hindi and local dialects and the festival is celebrated on the sixth day of the month Kārtika of the Hindu lunar shaka calendar . The word is a Prakrit derivation from the Sanskrit ṣaṣṭhi, meaning sixth.

History

It is believed that the 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 Mahābhārata in which Draupadi is depicted as observing similar rites.

In the poem, Draupadi and the Pandavas, rulers of Indraprastha (modern Delhi), performed the Chhath ritual on the advice of noble sage Dhaumya. Through her worship of the Sun God, Draupadi was not only able to solve her immediate problems, but also helped the Pandavas later regain their lost kingdom.

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.[9]

Another history behind celebrating the Chhath puja is the story of Lord Rama. It is considered that Lord Rama and Mata Sita had kept fast and offer puja to the Lord Sun in the month of Kartik in Shukla Paksh during their coronation after returning to the Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. From that time, chhath puja became the significant and traditional festival in the Hindu religion and started celebrating every year at the same date.

Chhathi Maiya

The Goddess who is worshipped during the famous Chhath Puja is known as Chhathi Maiya. Chhathi Maiya is known as Usha in the Vedas. She is believed to be the consort of Surya, the sun god. Some scholars believed that she is the only beloved of Surya and some suggest that she is Surya’s wife.

Usha is the term used to refer to dawn – The first light of day. But in the Rig Veda she has more symbolic meaning. Symbolically Usha is the dawn of divine consciousness in the individual aspirant. It is said - Usha and Pratyusha, wives of Sun are the main source of Sun. Both Usha and Pratyusha are worshiped along with Sun in chhath parva. Usha (literally-the first morning sun-ray) is worshipped on the last day and Pratyusha(the last sun-ray of day) is worshipped in the evening by offering water or milk to the rising and setting sun respectively.

Rituals and traditions

Chhath is a festival of bathing and worshipping,that follows a period of abstinence and segregation of the worshiper from the main household for four days. During this period, the worshiper observes purity, and sleeps on the floor on a single blanket.This is the only holy festival which has no involvement of any pandit (priest).The devotees offer their prayers to the setting sun, and then the rising sun in celebrating its glory as the cycle of birth starts with death. It is seen as the most glorious form of Sun worship.

Nahay khay

On the first day of Chhath Puja, the devotees take a dip, preferably in the river Kosi river, Karnali and Ganga and carry home the holy water of these historical rivers to prepare the offerings. The house and surroundings are scrupulously cleaned. The ladies observing the Vrata called vratin allow themselves only one meal on this day.

Lohanda and Kharna

On the second day of Chhath Puja, the day before Chhath, the Vratins observe a fast for the whole day, which ends in the evening a little after sunset. Just after the worship of Sun and moon, the offerings of Kheer (rice delicacy), puris (deep-fried puffs of wheat flour) and bananas, are distributed among family and friends. The Vratins go on a fast without water for 36 hours after 2nd day evening prashad (kheer).

Sandhya Arghya (evening offerings)

This day is spent preparing the prasad (offerings)at home. On the eve of this day, the entire household accompanies the Vratins to a riverbank, pond or a common large water body to make the offerings (Arghya) to the setting sun. It is during this phase of Chhath Puja that the devotees offer prayers to the just setting sun. The occasion is almost a carnival. Besides the Vratins, there are friends and family, and numerous participants and onlookers, all willing to help and receive the blessings of the worshipper. The folk songs sung on the evening of Chhath.

Usha Arghya (morning offerings)

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 (Arghya) to the rising sun. The festival ends with the breaking of the fast by the Vratins. Friends, Relatives visit the houses of the devotees to receive the prashad.

The main worshipers, called Parvaitin (from Sanskrit parv, meaning 'occasion' or 'festival'), are usually women. However, a large number of men also observe this festival. The parvaitin pray for the well-being of their family, and for the prosperity of their offsprings. 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 festival is skipped only if there happens to be a death in the family that year.

The prasad offerings include sweets, Kheer, Thekua and fruit offered in small bamboo soop winnows. The food is strictly vegetarian and it is cooked without salt, onions or garlic. Emphasis is put on maintaining the purity of the food.[10]

Pictures of Chhath Puja

References

  1. ^ http://www.drikpanchang.com/festivals/chhath-puja/chhath-puja-date-time.html?year=2015
  2. ^ Festivals of India And Nepal - CHHATH FESTIVAL
  3. ^ "Destinations :: Patna". 
  4. ^ "Surat 1 lakh to celebrate chhath puja". Jai Bihar. 22 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  5. ^ "15 lakh to observe Chhath Puja in Delhi". Jai Bihar. 22 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  6. ^ "Juhu Beach decks up for worshiping the sun god". DNA India. 24 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  7. ^ "Festive fervour reaches Fiji, Mauritius, Trinidad, Guyana, and Suriname.". The Telegraph – Calcutta(Kolkata). 24 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  8. ^ "Chaiti Chhath to start today". Jai Bihar. 30 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  9. ^ Sri Chhath Mahaviggyaan (The Science of Chhath) by Yogishri Oumkaar
  10. ^ Rasiao-kheer', 'thekua' make for festive platter"'".  
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