India is a place where every month, one or the other festival is celebrated. Here people of different religious backgrounds celebrate their respective festivals with pomp and grandeur. The biggest strength of the nation is the fact that people from different religious backgrounds live in harmony with each other. Talking of festivities, it must be noted that the people from different regions of the country celebrate different festivals even though they belong to the same religion. As the Northern states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand prepare themselves for Chhath puja 2019, in this article, the significance of this beautiful festival is discussed in details.
Chhath Puja History
The initial reference to the Chhath Puja is found in the Rig Veda, the oldest of the ancient Vedas. One would find hymns in praises of Lord Surya and details of customs that are very similar to the modern-day Chhath Puja.
According to the Rig Veda, the rishis of the era wanted a long life that did not involve the intake of food. They were spiritual beings and did not want to waste their energy on earthly concerns such as procuring and eating food. It is said that after performing the rituals of Chhath Puja, they were able to obtain energy from the sun. They no longer needed an external intake of food to stay alive.
However, it is only in the Mahabharata that explicit details of this holy festival find mention. It is said that the noble sage Dhaumya recommended Draupadi and the Pandavas to perform The Chhath Puja. The honest devotion and the adulation of Lord Surya got Draupadi and her husband out of their troubles. Since then, it became a custom for married women to participate in the rituals of Chhath Puja to invoke divine blessings in their husband’s lives.
There is also an anecdote from the Ramayana that speaks about Lord Rama and Goddess Sita, keeping the fast of Chhath Puja in honor of the Sun God. It is believed that upon returning to Ayodhya, they wanted to invoke their blessings of Lord Surya during Lord Rama’s coronation as the king of Ayodhya. So on Shukla Paksha of the month of Karthik, Rama and Sita fasted and prayed to the Surya. It is believed that since then, Rama ruled over Ayodhya diligently, and his subjects led a happy and prosperous life.
Since then, the festival of Chhath Puja became an essential Hindu festival. Every year, the festival is held on the very same day, and the Chhath puja 2019 date falls on the 2nd of November.
Rituals about Chhath Puja
Chhath Puja is a festival that is celebrated in honor of Lord Surya for sustaining life and energy on earth. Here is some insight into the rituals surrounding the festival.
This is an interesting aspect of the festival. People often take an oath that they will do this once they succeed in a particular thing. Culture dictates that post the fulfillment of the wish, one would go to the Chhath Ghat in simple cloth. The salutation process starts once the Chhath Daura starts arriving on the Ghat. The only prop required to carry out this Pranam is a stick easily found in the fields and locally known as ‘Kanda.’ Using the stick, the devotee draws a circle by lying on the ground on his stomach. The hands are outstretched in the ‘Pranaam Mudra.’ Post this, the devotee takes a dip in the Holy Ganga and worships Chhathi Maiya. Both men and women may perform this ritual.
The Chhath Puja is a festival that involves prolonged periods of fasting. It is the only Indian festival that has 36 hours of fasting. The fasting is rigorous, and one cannot take in not just food but also water. Following such rigorous day fasting, the Prasads served post twilight are special. Rasiao-kheer (a form of rice cooked in milk) and Thekua are the delicacies that are unique to this festival. Puris and Chapattis are also served. Banana, Apple, Orange, and Coconut are other essential parts of the prasad which is distributed among friends and family. Thus, when you hear children saying, ‘Chhath puja kab hai,’ it is usually in anticipation of the delicacies that they will be served.
This ritual involves fasting women who have their earthen lamps or pots or Kosis. Twenty four sugarcane sticks are tied together with a yellow cloth, and the Kosis are placed under them. This ritual happens twice in the festival of Chhath. On the eve of Chhath, this is carried out in the courtyard of the house. Here, in the event of the unavailability of twenty-four sticks, one may use five sugarcane sticks. The next morning, the same ritual is carried out in the Ghat. As we prepare for Chhath puja 2019, thousands of homes in Northern India will prepare themselves for Kosiya.
Unlike other Indian festivals, Chhath Puja is a time when simplicity and austerity are given the utmost priority. The consumption of non-vegetarian food by any family member of the person fasting is strictly prohibited. The food has to be prepared under very strict supervision to ensure that it is free from salt, onion, and garlic. Simple clothes and minimal jewelry are worn during the ritual. However, married women must wear sindoor (vermillion), mangal sutra, bindi, and other symbols of married life while performing the Puja.
The beauty of the festival of Chhath Puja is the feeling of togetherness that it instills. Devotees are encouraged to seek the blessings of their elders. It is said that helping someone who is fasting is ‘Punya’ (a concept of righteousness in the Hindu religion) and will help you reach salvation. As the nation gears up for Chhath Puja 2019, here’s wishing that Lord Suryan keeps his grace upon each one of us, every day.