Monday, 4 April 2016

C for Chhatha - The Festival of Sun God

A to Z challenge 2016
Festivals of India
C is for Chhatha - The Festival of Sun God

In India the month from Navratra to Diwali is called the festival period and the entire country gears up for this festival season with huge buying spree. It starts with the first day of “Ashwin” month of Hindu Calendar (Sep-Oct as per Georgian Calendar) and comprises of 9 days Navratra (Durga Puja in Bengal), followed by Dussehra (Vijay Dashmi) on 10th day. This is followed by Dhanteras, Karva ChauthNarak Chaudas & finally Deepawali (Diwali) on 20th day after Dussehra.
In Bihar and some parts of UP etc. this further continues for six more days in Kartik month of Hindu Calendar (Oct – Nov) as Bhai Dooj, and then four day festival Chhath and finally ends after 30 days as Kartik Purnima.

The festival is also referred to as state festival of Bihar and is thus very close to my heart.

Chhatha is an ancient Hindu Vedic festival dedicated to the Hindu Sun God, Surya and Chhathi Maiya (ancient Vedic Goddess; Usha - wife of Sun God ). As stated above Chhath puja is performed on Kartika Shukla Shashthi (sixth day of month Kartika in the Vikram Samvat).    

Essence :  

The festival unlike other festivals is not just merry making, but entails long hours of fasting by the elders normally women who perform puja in this festival (called vratin). The festival spreads over four days. The Puja is performed in order to thank Surya, considered as the god of energy and of the life-force, for sustaining life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes (Manita).

Process : 

Day 1 : Nahai Khai or Nahan Khan – symbolises purification of the worshiper (vratin). On this day the vratin take a dip in a river or a pond in the morning and carry home water from the same water body. This water is used to prepare prasad (offerings) for the Sun God. The house and its surroundings are then cleaned. Rice , Dal, Cucumber Vegetable , and bachka of Agastya flower ( vegetable dip in rice paste and deep fried) forms the food and Prasad for this day. The Vratins take only one meal on this day.

Day 2 : Lohanda or Kharna : is the actual start of the festival. The Vratin observe a fast for the whole day, ending it only after sunset and offering the Puja where in Gods are invited to attend the puja. The Prasad for this day is Roti & Kheer (prepared in Gur). (In some other parts meal same as Nahai Khai is also used as Prasad.) After this meal in the night begins another 36-hour tough fast during which they do not even take a sip of water.


Soop's set for Araghya

Evening Araghya on bank of  River Ganga in Patna
Day 3 : Sandhya Arghya : The day starts with all elders (even those who are not vratin) taking bath and then prepare the Prasad – Thekua of the festival. In the meantime the men folk arrange all seasonal food from the market in enough quantity to fill the Soops (Tray made up of bamboo). (The soops are in accordance with the pledge taken by the vratin for good beings of different member of the family). These fruits and Thekua amongst other puja material is then decorated in the soop and prepared ready to take to the place of offering Araghya by stacking in Dala (Basket made up of bamboo). Normally the arghya is offered standing in a pool of water i.e. river or pond etc. In the evening at the onset of the hour of Sunset the vratin take holy dip in the water body and worship the Sun God and Chhathi Maiya. The entire family member, along with friends and acquaintances, accompany the women to the riverbank or pond as they offer ‘sandhya arghya’ (evening offerings) to the setting sun, with others singing folk songs meant for the occasion and they offer Arghya. The vratin continue the fast tonight. After the Arghya all return to the house, open these soops, and change the fruits etc for next day's offering.

Day 4: Usha Arghya or Morning Arghya or Paran - Next day early morning devotees gather around the same river or pond and offer ‘Usha arghya’ (morning offerings) to the rising sun. It is only after this puja that the worshippers break their fast. The prasad is then distributed among family members and friends. 

Waiting for the sunrise in the morning to offer Usha Araghya

The Vratin break the fast with full meal especially prepared for this occasion during early morning. It includes Rice, Dal, Kadhi, Lal Saag, Sabji of five varieties, Bachka etc.

Feast after Morning Araghya

Thus concludes the elaborate festival of Chhatha.

Childhood Relevance : Living in a joint family, Chhath would mean festivity with a gathering of over 100 people. It would appear a marriage party in itself with all joining hands to perform the rituals of the Chhatha puja , at the same time arranging for food etc for all the members.

Morning Araghya on bank of  River Ganga in Patna

Chhatha  is also celebrated in the summer (March–April), on Chaitra Shashthi, some days after Holi; and is called Chaiti Chhath. However, the main Chhatha and more popular is Kartik Chhatha as winter is the usual festive. The festival is now found to be celebrated not only in Bihar, UP & Nepal but all parts of world were people from these areas have moved.


A beautiful video depicting significance of presence in Chhath

Mythological Relevance :  It is believed that the ritual of Chhath puja may even predate the ancient Vedas, as the Rigveda contains hymns worshiping the Sun God and describes similar rituals. The rituals also find reference in epic Mahābhārata in which Draupadi is depicted as observing similar rites. In the poem, Draupadi and the Pandavas, rulers of Indraprastha (modern Delhi), performed the Chhath ritual on the advice of noble sage Dhaumya. Through her worship of the Sun God, Draupadi was not only able to solve her immediate problems, but also helped the Pandavas later regain their lost kingdom.

The Goddess who is worshipped during the famous Chhath Puja is known as Chhathi Maiya. Chhathi Maiya is known as Usha in the Vedas. She is believed to be the beloved younger wife of Surya, the sun god. Usha and Pratyusha are wives of Surya and Aditi is his mother.
Usha is the term used to refer to dawn– The first light of day. But in the Rig Veda she has more symbolic meaning. Symbolically Usha is the dawn of divine consciousness in the individual aspirant. It is said - Usha and Pratyusha, wives of Sun are the main source of Sun. Both Usha and Pratyusha are worshiped along with Sun in chhath parva. Usha (literally-the first morning sun-ray) is worshipped on the last day and Pratyusha(the last sun-ray of day) is worshipped in the evening by offering water or milk to the rising and setting sun respectively. This is the only parva which signifies rising sun as well as setting sun both.

Aditya Sinha

That’s for today with C. Tomorrow it would be another festival with “D”
For my parallel second Challenge blog with A pls visit : Let the Soul Pour
For other A to Z challenge blogs visit : A to Z Challenge 2016

Other Festivals in the series   A For Anant Chaturdashi & Akshay Tritiya
                                                   B For Buddha Purnima, Basant Panchmi & Baisakhi

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