Chhath Puja Festival - History, Rituals & The Famous Ancient Festival Of India

An ancient Hindu festival of India, Chhath Puja is widely celebrated in many Indian states at the start of the winter season. Dedicated to the God, Surya (The Sun) and his consort Usha (referred to as Chhathi Maiya), this great Indian festival is all about expressing gratitude to them.

On this auspicious occasion, people pay respect and worship to the supreme source of power, light, and energy: The Sun. Various rituals are performed over a span of 4 days and other people observe a strict fast in various regions of Bihar, Jharkhand, U.P, and also, the neighboring country, Nepal. Chhath involves the offering of 'Arghya' by fasting women to the Sun in knee-deep water.

The four-day-long festival of Chhath Puja started today(08/11/2021). Celebrated after Diwali, mostly by people belonging to Bihar and U.P.

Chhath Puja Festival - History, Rituals And The Famous Ancient Festival Of India

Who is Goddess Chhathi Maiya?

The Goddess that's worshipped during the famous Chhath Puja is Chhathi Maiya. She is called as Usha within the Vedas. She is believed to be the consort of Surya, the Sun god. Some scholars are of the view that she is only the beloved of Surya and a few describes that she is Surya’s wife. Within the Rig Veda, she has more symbolic meaning. Symbolically Usha is that the dawn of divine consciousness within the individual aspirant. It's said - Usha and Pratyusha, wives of the Sun God are the most source of the Sun. Both Usha and Pratyusha have worshiped alongside the Sun god in Chhath Puja. Usha (literally the first-morning sun-ray) is worshipped on the 4th and last Day and Pratyusha (the last sun-ray of the day) is worshipped in the evening by offering water or milk to the rising and setting sun respectively.

All You Need to Know About Four Days of the Festival:

Nahay Khay: The worshipper takes bath in the river, preferably the Ganges, and carries home the holy water. The women keep fast (Vrata) and take meals only once on this day.

Kharna: It's the second day of the Chhath Puja celebration. Women fast for an entire day and end it in the evening after sundown. They don't eat food and water for 36 hours after eating kheer (a sweet made from rice and milk) as a prasad on the 2nd day.

Sandhya Arghya: On this day, prasad is prepared and the whole family members accompany women to the bank of ghat(river) in the evening. Here, the offerings are made to the setting sun. The celebration at this time is not less than any carnival. 

Usha Arghya or Morning Offerings: On the last and 4th Day of Puja, the devotees with family go to the ghat(river). Here the rising sun is worshipped and therefore the offerings are made. Women break the fast then the festival comes to its end, then prasad is given to the people around.

Chhath Puja Festival - History, Rituals And The Famous Ancient Festival Of India

The History Behind the Auspicious Chhath Puja

According to the chronicles, the kings of ancient North India invited Maga Purohits as they were highly proficient in worshipping the sun. Since this worshipping, the Chhath Puja was started. there's another belief amongst Hindus that Chhath Puja was celebrated within the Vedic period also because the hymns worshipping Sun God are found in Rigveda.

Mahabharata also contains regard to this festival. Draupadi is shown offering similar rituals in Mahabharata. According to it, on the recommendation of great saint Dhaumya, Pandavas and Draupadi performed Chhath Puja. As a result, Draupadi was ready to crack the sudden problems and helped Pandavas in getting back to their lost realm also.

Another famous legend tells that this Puja was initiated by Surya Putra Karna (Sun's son Karna). He was the emperor of Anga Desha (now district of Bhagalpur in Bihar).

The festival that promotes well-being and prosperity, Chhath Puja traces its roots back to the early Vedic Period to the time when sages performed rituals by exposing themselves to direct sunlight and also abstained themselves from consuming food.



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