Chhath Puja is a significant annual Hindu festival celebrated in Bihar and other eastern states of India as well as Nepal. Lasting for four days, it honors the sun god Surya for sustaining life on earth and fulfilling invocations.
History and Origins
Ancient Vedic Tradition
Held six days after Diwali, Chhath Puja dates back to the Vedic period when people offered prayers and ritual bathing to the Surya.
The festival was observed by farmers’ families to express gratitude for the harvest and pray for bountiful crops and prosperity in the coming season.
Stories describe the dedication of Draupadi and Drupadi performing Chhath puja to bless their sons and Sati’s father-in-law Daksha performing it to atone for insulting Lord Shiva.
Rituals of Chhath Puja
On the first day, women fast and clean their houses while preparing delicacies like thekua, kheer and fruit offerings for the puja.
The main ritual involves a 36 hour long fast and offering arghya to the setting and rising sun on the riverbank or a water body at dusk and dawn.
Prasad distribution and community feasting take place after the setting sun puja and prayers for well-being are made.
The fast is broken after sunrise puja and prayers thanking Surya for sustaining life through his existence and powers.
Celebrations and Traditions
Extended families gather at ponds and ghats elaborately decorated with designs made from rice flour and flowers.
Traditions include partaking prasad like thekua, kheer, coconut and fruits after the sunrise prayers for continued prosperity.
Musicians perform Chhath songs and folk dances reflecting themes of nature, worship and women’s roles in preparing rituals.
Items such as sugarcane, pumpkins, seasonal fruits symbolizing health and fertility are floated along with lit lamps in water.
Chhath represents the central role of women in nurturing family bonds through prayers for children and spouse’s well-being.
Worshipping the sun ensured successful harvests and acknowledged its powers providing livelihoods through photosynthesis for rural agrarian communities.
Paying homage to Surya for sustaining life on earth through his light, energy and warmth showed appreciation for nature’s life-giving phenomena.
The distinct festival reflects Bihar’s vibrant cultural heritage and is an occasion for upholding traditional values and social cohesion.
Celebrated with fervor, Chhath Puja remains a unique example of ancient spiritual traditions adapting to modern times. Its combination of ritual bathing, fasting, community participation and offerings to the sun continue reinforcing age-old familial relations and remembering life-giving celestial bodies as the cycle of time unfolds.