Chhath Puja 2016 Dates
Thursday 3 Nov – Sunday 6 Nov
Every state in India has some special festivals and celebrations linked with the traditions, origin and the respective culture. Chhath Puja (छठ पूजा) is one of those festivals that are celebrated lavishly in Bihar which covers a large part of east India. Although it is celebrated in many parts of India, it is a special festival observed with special celebrations in the state of Bihar.
Chhath Puja is an ancient festival of Hindus. The history of Chhath Puja is traced from the Vedas, the holy book of Hindus. The festival is all about respecting and honoring the Sun God as he is one of the major reasons for sustained life on earth. Besides, people also express wishes and place their requests to get boons from the Sun God.
Offering puja and prayers to Sun god is not a new thing. It is quite popular and prevalent all over India and even in many south Asian countries. In Chhath Puja, every individual pray and honor the Sun god.
When is Chhath Puja Celebrated?
The word ‘Chhath’ (छठ) refers to ‘number six’ or ‘sixth’! It falls on the sixth day of the lunar month of Kartik. It is celebrated for four days. The celebration immediately follows Diwali celebration in India. In the year 2016, the festival Chhath Puja will be celebrated during 3rd November to 6th November.
Chhath Puja 2016
3 November 2016 (Chaturthi)– The first day of bath and eating. Commence fasting on the early morning before sunrise and allowed to eat only one meal. It involves morning puja.
4 November 2016 (Panchami) – The second day where the fasting ends after the sunset. It involves evening puja.
5 November 2016 (Shasthi or Chhath) – The third day is called Sandhya Aargh, where people gather in front of water body and pray the sun god with sweets and desserts.
6 November 2016 (Saptami) – The fourth day is called Suryodhya Aargh, where the festival ends by worshipping the sun god during sunrise.
Prasads offered to the sun god on Chhath Puja:
Day 1: Water / Milk in the morning
Day 2: Milk in the evening
Day 3: The whole day spent preparing sweets and also includes fruits. (evening)
Day 4: Rice kheer, fruits, and milk
In which places the festival of Chhath Puja is celebrated?
Besides Bihar, Chhath Puja is celebrated grandly in Jharkhand and eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh. In Nepal also this festival is celebrated lavishly. There, Mithila and Terai are the two regions that observe this celebration in an elaborate manner. The migrants from Bihar and Nepal have continued to celebrate the festival, which is brought forward till now. All northern regions that border with Nepal celebrate this festival. In addition, the migrants from Bihar and Nepal to Mauritius, Jamaica, Guyana, Fiji, etc also observe this festival to honor Sun God. Nowadays, anyone can witness Chhath Puja celebration as people from Bihar, Jharkhand etc. celebrate it in groups wherever they go.
History and origin of Chhath Puja
As mentioned above, the history of Chhath Puja is traced in the holy book of Hindus, Rig Veda, one of the four Vedas. Rig Veda describes a few rituals through hymns that worship the Sun God. The similar rituals are followed to celebrate the festival and honor the Sun.
The Epics Ramayana and Mahabaratha
Mahabaratha, one of the epics of India, also details the rituals of Chhath Puja. Draupadi worshipped Sun god, which helped her and Pandavas get back their lost kingdom.
A sage called Dhaumya met Draupadi when she and Pandavas lived in jungle. He advised her to offer a special prayer and worship lord Surya to help her. Draupadi followed his advice and observed a fast without drinking or eating. She offered puja to Lord Surya continuously for four days with no break. Lord Surya was pleased by her prayer and blessed her that they will regain the lost kingdom. This specific ritual has been followed until now to worship the Sun god.
In Ramayana, Lord Rama and Sita worshipped lord Surya after they returned back to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile from the kingdom. Both Rama and Sita observed fast during the Shukla Paksh in the moth of Kartik.
Beyond these references from ancient texts, the history of yoga as well as books of history also put forth the details about Chhath Puja celebration.
According to various sacred texts of Hinduism, sun exposure prevents and cures many diseases. The sages and yogis who lived before several centuries used to fast without eating or drinking anything and they got their energy from the sunrays directly.
Worshipping the Sun and his consort
The God Sun is not worshipped alone on Chhath Puja. He and his consort, Chhathi Maiya (छठी मैया) is also worshipped. Chhathi Maiya is called Usha (ऊषा) and the details about her are mentioned in the Vedic texts. Devi Usha is the consort of Lord Surya. A few scholars also mentioned that Usha was Surya’s wife and he was the only one much adored by Surya.
While the term Surya refers to brightness and illumination, Usha refers to dawn and beginning, the first light of any day. In Rig Veda, the term Usha refers to dawn of consciousness, dawn of divinity and dawn of aspiration.
In few texts, it is mentioned that Usha is not a single consort of Sun God. There were two consorts of Lord Surya, Usha and Pratyusha (प्रत्युषा). The two wives of Sun are responsible for the power of sun. Usha represents the first light of the day and Pratyusha refers to the last light of day, sunrise and sunset respectively. It is also believed that only because of Usha and Pratyusha, Sun god is powerful and performs his responsibilities. If there is no Usha and Pratyusha, there will be no sunrise or sunset which will certainly make the life on earth impossible. Usha is worshipped on the last day of Chhath Puja (at dawn) and Pratyusha is worshipped in the evening by offering water or milk.
Traditional Rituals of Chhath Puja
The rituals of Chhath Puja generally differ from any topical puja that involves offerings and prayers to gods and Devas.
It is the festival where the rituals are all about bathing, worshipping god, fasting and abstinence from the home for four days of Chhath Puja. Yes, this is one of the highly meticulous festivals that includes some strenuous rituals. The worshippers take bath in the holy water and offer the water to Sun god during sunrise. They observe fast for a minimum of 36 hours. All the four days, they separate from their homes and live away from the main household.
The worshippers sleep on the floor and spend all four days with no comforts of life. Purity, simplicity, and divinity are the three core elements that should be followed during the four day festival of Chhath Puja.
Chhath Puja is the only holy festival of India that has no involvement of Pandits. When the sun sets, water or milk is offered and Sun is worshipped. Same is done when the sun rises in the morning. This indicates worshipping the glory of life, from birth to death.
However, since not many can really move to a mandir or a temple for four days to observe fast and worship Sun God, lately, the festival is observed at home. Still, a lot of men and women celebrate Chhath Puja in temples, away from their home.
Common rituals of Chhath Puja
- The common ritual all worshippers follow is to take bath in river or holy water in the early morning before sunrise. The house and surroundings are cleaned.
- Prasad (प्रसाद) made with milk and sugar or holy water is generally prepared in the early morning and offered to the sun during sunrise.
- Elders in the family don’t drink water until evening and observe fast. This fasting generally starts from sunrise on the first day and ends on sunset on the second day, thus fasting remains for 36 hours.
- Those who couldn’t observe fasting continuously for 36 hours, eat only one meal a day during 36 hours.
- After offering rice kheer (dessert made with rice and milk), bananas and puris (deep fried puffed wheat breads) during the sunset on the second day, the worshippers break the fast.
- Next day, all worshippers meet at a riverbank or pond or any common water body along with the sweets (prasad) prepared by them. The worshippers pray the sun god during the sunset and it makes a grand celebration! People exchange prasad, offerings and enjoy themselves in a great religious get-together.
- On this day, the worshippers sing the Chhath songs, which make the festival nothing less than a carnival!
- On the last day, early morning prayers are offered to the sun god during the sunrise.
- During the four day long celebration, people don’t eat meat, avoid spices and don’t even include onion, garlic, etc. while cooking their foods. Only satvic foods (foods that are light, fresh and easily digestible) are allowed.
It is believed and followed that the family who perform / begin doing Chhath puja should pass it on to the next generation without any stoppage in the middle. Just like other festivals, the family can refrain from doing the puja and fasting if there is a death in the family.
Beyond these, purity of body and mind is the essence of this festival. Fasting acts as a natural detox and helps the body absorb the cosmic energy from the sun. Chhath puja not only helps you connect spiritually with the nature, but also tones your health, body and mind.