Chhath Pooja: History, Origin and Rituals
India is a land of festivals. It is the only country in the world where ancient traditions and cultures still exist. Most of the festivals have close relation with the nature. Chhath pooja is one among them. It is celebrated a week after Diwali. It is basically a riverside ritual in which Sun or Surya is worshipped due to which it is also known as Surya sashthi.
WHY IS CHHATH POOJA CELEBRATED
This holy festival is dedicated to Sun and goddess Usha also known as Chhathi Maiya. In this festival, devotees offer their gratitude to the Sun, goddess Usha which is the first ray of the morning and goddess Pratyusha which is the last ray of the evening since it is believed that the sun is the prime source of energy and helps in sustaining life on earth.
It is mainly celebrated mainly in Bihar and by Bihar’s native migrants in Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bangalore, Republic of Ireland, Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad, Malaysia, Tobago, Guyana, South Africa, Suriname, and Indonesia United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Macau, Japan, and Jamaica.
ORIGIN OF CHHATH POOJA
It is mentioned in Ramayana that Sita used to celebrate this festival after Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya. Similarly in Mahabharata, it is referred that Draupadi used to celebrate this festival. Chhath pooja also has vedic roots where several mantras are dedicated to goddess Usha. According to some mythological beliefs, Karna from Mahabharata was the first one who started Chhath pooja.
The devotees, called Parvaitin which is originated from sanskrit words parv meaning ‘occasion’, pray for the prosperity of their offsprings and well-being of their family.
RITUALS AND TRADITION OF CHHATH POOJA
It is four days festival which is celebrated with rigorous and strict manners of preparation. So, during the period, the devotee (the member of the family who practices) lives separately from the main family in order to maintain chastity as well as purity. The prasad and food (for devotees) is cooked without salt, onions or garlic and is accomplished and accompanied by four days of preparation.
First Day of Chhath Pooja (Nahay khay/Arwa Arwain)
The devotees take bath in holy Ganga water and surroundings of the house are also purified with Ganga water. They take only one time meal known as Kaddu-bhat. It is cooked in the bronze or soil utensils by using mango wood fire over soil stove.
Second Day of Chhath Pooja (Lohanda and Kharna)
The devotees hold fast for the whole day. They break their fast after worshipping the Sun god in the evening with Rasiao-kheer, puris and fruits. After breaking their fast, they again go for fast without water for the next 36 hours.
Third Day of Chhath Pooja (Sanjhiya Arghya)
The devotees offer Sandhya Arghya at the riverside and then they wear yellow saree (basically turmeric colour). At night, the devotees celebrate the vibrant event of filling Kosi (Kosia Bharai) by lighting clay diyas under the five sugarcane sticks and sing folk song of Chhathi Maiya. These sugarcane sticks represent the Panchatattva (Earth, Air, water, fire and Space).
Fourth Day of Chhath Pooja
This is a final day of Chhath Pooja. On this day, devotees along with their families and friends offer Bihaniya Aragh (Early Morning Offering) to the Sun god at the riverside. Finally, the devotees end their fast with Chhath Pooja Prasad and conclude the festival.
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