Celebrated In: India
ChhathPuja is a festival of reverence to the solar deity, the only festival in the world where devotees offer salutations to the setting and rising Sun. Chhath puja is performed on Kartik Shukla Shashti i.e. the 6th day of the month of Kartik in the Hindu Calendar, exactly 6 days after Deepawali. This falls around the month of October-November as per the Gregorian calendar. A week after Diwali, the festival of lights, comes the festival Chhath. For one night and day, the people practically live on the banks of a river or any other water body in the neighbourhood where a ritual offering is made to the Sun god.The word Chhath denotes the number six and thus the name itself serves as a reminder of this auspicious day on the festival almanac. The venue for this unique festival is the riverbank and since the Ganges traverses the countryside of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Bengal in India like a lifeline, it is but appropriate that the banks of this river should be the ideal prayer location. Chhathis considered a means to thank the Sun for bestowing the bounties of life on earth as also for fulfilling particular wishes. Chhathis a Hindu festival but many Muslim families also participate in this holy festival in certain places.
Chhat also called Dala Chhat - is an ancient and major festival in Bihar, and is celebrated twice a year: once in the summers, called the Chaiti Chhat, and once around a week after Amawasya( Deepawali), called the Kartik Chhat. The Kartik Chhat is more popular because winters are the usual festive season in North India, and Chhat being an ardous observance requiring the worshippers to fast without water for more than 24 hours, is easier to do in the Indian winters. Chhat is the worship of the Sun God. This is a ritual bathing festival that follows a period of abstenance and ritual segregation of the worshipper from the main household for two days. On the eve of Chhat, houses are scrupulously cleaned and so are the surroundings. The ritual bathing and worship of the Sun God takes place, performed twice: once in the evening and once on the crack of the dawn, usually on the banks of a flowing river, or a common large water body. The occasion is almost a carnival, and besides every worshipper, usually women, who are mostly the main ladies of the family, there are numerous participants and onlookers, all willing to help and receive the blessings of the worshipper. Ritual rendition of regional folk song, carried on through oral transmission from mothers and mothers-in-law to daughters and daughters-in-law, are sung on this occasion for several days on the go. These song are a great mirror of the culture, social structure, mythology and history of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. However, Chhat being celebrated at the crack of the dawn on a river bank is a beautiful, elating spiritual experience connecting the modern India to his ancient cultural roots. It’s a remarkable sight when for one whole night and day the people of Bihar literally live on the banks of the river Ganga, to make a ritual offering to the Sun God. Since the Ganga traverses the countryside of Bihar like a lifeline.
Chhat is a colourful and devoted pious occasion and new clothes are a must for the ‘Parvaitin’, meaning the one who observes the ‘Parv’ or Puja. There’s lot of serenity in the observance of the festival which includes a lot of folk and devotional singing, both at home and on the riverbank. While the younger women and children take over the everyday household chores, these women begin with a thorough cleaning of all items to be used to prepare the prasad or edable offerings to the Sun God. Everything, from the ‘chulha’ (primitive stove in which mango wood is used especially as the fuel) to the cooking wok to frying pan(which is essentially made up of Brass or Copper. Here the use of iron or steel made pots are prohibited. The pots made up of soil is considerd as the pots of gold and this is the most acceptable in preparing the Prasad.), is purified.The bounty of the harvest is deemed a fit offering to the Sun God. Wheat flour is the main ingredient for the traditional cake called ‘Thekuwas’. The dough is cut into shapes or pressed into wooden moulds before they’re fried a crisp deep brown and stored as prasad to be distributed in Chhat. For the preparation of these offerings, the devotees observe certain rules like abstaining from eating cooked meals and not wearing stitched clothes. A bath before entering the kitchen is a must for everyone. By the time the day of the fast arrives, all the preparations are complete. Prasad is made and stored, and a solemn atmosphere prevails in all households that observe Chhat Puja The worshipping of the rising Sun in Knee-deep water of Ganga, at the dawn, and the setting Sun, at dusk, with buckets of fresh fruits-Nariyal ,Kela, Ganna Thekua,etc. has both scientific and spiritual basis. The objective of the festival, observed by the following rigorous rituals, is to achieve the purgation of mind and body. In other words, the goal is to achieve purity, both physically and mentally. The festival is exclusively observed by women. Males can offer helping hand but they often only watch.( It seens now a days Males are doing vrat of chhati maiya.) There is also a sort of transcendental belief among men and women that Chhat vrata (fasting and puja), if observed in purity, will fulfill ones wishes. Even from scientific point of view, there seems enough logic in the argument that is purity is attained through Chhat puja.