When: 8th November 2013 Where: In various parts of India
The ancient Hindu festival dedicated to the God of Sun (Surya), Chhath Puja, is celebrated to thank Surya for sustaining life and energy on earth. This festival is celebrated in various parts of India like West Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Devotees offer prayers and salutation to the setting sun on this festival. This Puja is held in high esteem and regard to the solar deity. It is considered as the festival of forgiveness and compassion.
Rituals and Traditions of Chhath Puja
Although Chhath puja is celebrated in many parts of India, it is in Bihar that it is considered a very important occasion. Biharis celebrate this festival on the sixth day of the lunar month after Diwali each year. The rituals on this festival include fasting and chanting prayers on the banks of the River Ganga, Yamuna or river.
During this four-day festival on the first day devotee bathe in the holy Ganga or Yamuna River (it may be any other fresh water body) at sunrise. Then the devotee is supposed to bring the holy water home to prepare ‘Prasad’ or offering. During these four days, the worshipper gives up all luxuries and sleeps on the floor with a single blanket.
Next morning devotees maintain a strict fast with no water and food, which ends after sunset. After eating at night the devotee is suppose to start another fast on the following morning that lasts for 36 hours i.e. till third day evening. During the sunset on the third day a huge puja is held on the river banks where millions of people stand in the river with offerings that include flowers and small diyas (earthen lamps). They break their fast during this time. The sight of thousand hands offering ‘arghya’ (river water) to sun makes up for a delightful scene.
After sunset, the devotees return to their homes or temples where the celebration continues by singing hymns. On the morning of the final day, devotees visit the banks of River Ganga before sunrise and welcome the sun with folded hands. Sandalwood, rice, sugarcane and various fruits covered usually with saffron coloured cloth are offered to the Sun God. Devotees offer arghya and chant mantras from the Rig Veda and distribute the Prasad amongst family and friends.
Chhath Puja Beliefs
According to a belief, after the main Puja on the final day, if you beg for the Prasad all your wishes will come true.
Did you know? Chhath is the only festival which celebrates the setting sun unlike any other festival. The setting sun is celebrated for its glory as the cycle of birth starts with death.