Chhath Puja, the dedication to Lord Surya
India is a land of colourful and beautiful festivals. Each part of India has its own bunch of festivals. Chhath Puja is one such Hindu festival which is dedicated to the Sun God or Surya Bhagwan. This festival is largely celebrated in the Northern parts of India including Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. It is celebrated in other parts of India as well. Chhath Puja is also known as Chhath, Chhath Parva, Surya Shashti, etc.
The word ‘Chhath’ means sixth in Bhojpuri, Nepali and Maithili languages. According to the Hindu calendar, the festival is celebrated on the sixth day of the Kartikeya month and this is how it gets its name. Chhath Puja is a four-day long festival with significance for each day. Today is the first day of Chhath Puja. The significance of each day is:
Day One: Nahay Khay is the first day of Chhath. Early morning, the devotees take a bath in the holy Ganga. The families prepare a traditional meal and serve it to the Sun as Bhog (Prashad). The house is entirely purified with Ganga Jal. In the entire day, only one meal is eaten. The meal includes Chane ki Daal, Kaddu ki Sabji, and Kheer without any salt. The food is served in soil or bronze utensils only.
Day Two: Lohanda and Kharna (Argasan) is the second day of Puja. This is an entire day Nirjala Vrath i.e. fasting without even drinking water from sunrise to sunset. They break their fast after worshiping the Sun during sunset.
Day Three: Sandhya Arghya is the second last day of Puja. This day is also observed with fasting without water. The children make bamboo baskets filled with fruits and sweets. The men of the family take the baskets to the riverside. At the open ghats, these baskets are kept where the ladies take a dip and offer the Arghya to the setting sun.
Day Four: Bihaniya Arghya is the final day. All the families of the devotees reach the river before sunrise. The baskets are again brought to the river and offers prayers and Prasad to the Sun while rising. After this, they break their fast by eating the Prasad.
Being the most eminent festival of the North, it is celebrated with much enthusiasm. Hindu people believe that early sunlight can help cure diseases and is great for healing too.