Did you know Chhath Puja was dedicated to the Sun God?
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Did you know Chhath Puja was dedicated to the Sun God?

Read on to know more about the festival that is keeping the NCR busy.

Did you know Chhath Puja was dedicated to the Sun God?

With the NCR bustling with Chhath Puja preparations (November 26-27), haven't you ever wondered what this festival is about? Traffic is being diverted, ghats are being readied, but what is it that we are all celebrating?

Well, here's the low-down.

Chhath is an ancient Hindu festival dedicated to the Sun God. According to Hindu religious texts, the festival is observed for health and prosperity, and is celebrated twice a year — first in the lunar month of Chaitra (right after Holi in March-April) and the second in the lunar autumn month of Kartik (exactly six days after Diwali). Originally observed in Bihar, Jharkhand and the Terai regions of Nepal, today with massive urbanisation, Chhath has spread to almost all corners of India.

When City Spidey spoke to Acharya Ram Krishna Tiwari, a priest who has been performing Chhath rituals for a long time in the sub-city, said, “Chhath is essentially a festival of cure. In Hindu mythology, worshipping the Sun is believed to bring relief from a number of diseases, including leprosy, as the Sun is the original source of vitamin D. It is also believed that worshipping the Sun increases longevity and brings prosperity to family and friends.”

The rituals of the festival are rigorous and observed over four days. These include a ceremonial bath in a river, fasting and abstaining from drinking water, and standing in water for long periods of time. Paying tribute to the rising and setting Sun with water (Araghya) is a signature attribute of the festival. The folk songs sung on the evening of Chhath reflect the culture, social structure, mythology and history of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Tiwari explained, “The word 'Chhath' denotes the number 6, and the festival is celebrated on the sixth day of the Hindu lunar month of Kartik. A closer scrutiny of the word reveals that the austerities of Chhath Puja have their origins in the six stages of Hatha yoga. The word ‘Chah’ means ‘six stages’ and ‘Hath’ refers to the science of Hath Yoga [austerity], as mentioned in several religious texts. Incidentally, the Rig Veda contains hymns worshipping the Sun God and describes similar rituals. The rituals of Chhath also find reference in The Mahabharata, in which Draupadi is depicted carrying out the same rituals for the longevity and prosperity of her five husbands when they were in exile.”

Here are a few things intrinsically connected to Chhath:

Prasad: Prasad, or offerings to the Sun God, bears great importance in this festival. Fruits and sweets are offered, along with water and milk. Generally, at least five kinds of fruit are offered, along with the traditional sweets made at home.

Nahakha: This is a preliminary step in the rituals, whereby devotees bathe and eat on the day of Chaturthi (the fourth day of Kartik).

Kharna: On Panchami, the day before Chhath, devotees observe a daylong fast, which ends in the evening after sunset. The fast is broken by puris, sweetened milk rice (kheer) and bananas. Thereafter, for the next 36 hours, devotees go on a fast without water.

Sandhya Arghya and Pratah Arghya: The evening of the day of the fast (within the stipulated 36 hours) is spent preparing prasad. This is offered to the Sun God the next day at the river bank after sunset.

Parna: The festival ends the next day, with the ceremonial breaking of fast.