Chhath Parva – Chhath Puja
Chhath Parva, also known as Chhath Puja, Chhathi, Dala Puja, Surya Shasthi is a festival which is celebrated by the Hindus to worship the Sun. Though it is widely celebrated in North India and people of origin to those parts, in Nepal it is celebrated by the people of Madhesi community of the Terai region or elsewhere. This is the only Vedic festival to worship the Sun, as the Hindu people consider the Sun as their God, in remembrance of the light and energy it gives for the life (which makes a life-source) in the Earth. Sun is also considered as a source of healing for diseases like leprosy and others.
The Chhath is celebrated – observed for four days, from Kartik Shukala chaturthi to Kartik Shukala Saptami (respectively known as Nahay Khay, Lohanda and Kharna, Sandhya Arghya and Usha Arghya). The meaning of ‘Chhath’ literally means ‘six’ in English, and hence, the main and most important day of the Chhath Parva is the Kartik Shukala Shasthi. The exact date for the Chhath is however, confirmed by a committee in Janakpurdham in Nepal, Mainly this festival falls on the months of Kartik or Mangsir according to the Nepali calendar, which is followed by the people all over the world who celebrate the festival. It is the festival of colour, liveliness and life for the people who celebrate it.
According to Hindu mythology, there is the story behind the start of the celebration of Chhath Parva (festival), which can be summarized as:
“Draupati, wife of Pandava, which is in pilgrim book Mahabharat, began to worshipping during one year disguised in the palace of King Birat. People believe that the Sun cure the disease like Leprosy and bring about prosperity and longevity to their family members. After Draupadi did so, not only she was able to solve her immediate problems, but also the Pandavas were able to get back their lost kingdom.”
There is another story, which is related to Karna, and which can be summarized as:
‘’Chhat Pooja or Surya Sashti vrat is observed by Warrior Karna, the son of Surya, who was renowned warrior and well-known for his nature of charity. Since Karna became a popular and powerful by observing Surya Puja, Hindus also worship Surya devata for courage, fame, health, wealth and prosperity’’
When people became informed of these stories, they also started doing the same.
The Chhath Parva is celebrated for four days
1st Day: Nahay Khay
Nahay Khay means bath and eat. The festival requires a ritual bathing in the early morning (people usually prefer the Koshi, Karnali or Ganga rivers). They take a dip in the rivers or ponds.
2nd Day: Lohanda and Kharna
Take a fast on the second day, people observe fasting ending in the evening after the sunset. Just after the worship of earth, the offerings of rice pudding known as Kheer, Fruits and Puris are distributed.
3rd Day: Sandhya Arghya
Third day the main and most important day of the Chhath Parva on Kartik Shukala Shashti, they do the evening offerings (Sanjhiya Arghya). The whole family accompanies the devotee to a riverbank, lake or ponds to make the offerings to the setting sun. In Kathmandu, Rani Pokhari is opened for this day. In Janakpur, Argha is offered in Ganga Sagar. In the evening people gather together and perform cultural programs. It reflects the culture, social structure, mythology and history of Mithila and its vicinity. People sing songs in Maithili, Magadhi, and the Bhojpuri, the three main languages spoken in Terai and Madhesh region of Nepal. There are slight variations in celebration of chhath pooja among the different regions and families of Nepal. However, all celebrate the same festival with the same enthusiasm and appeal.
4th Day: Usha Arghya
In the last day, they again go to the water source and observe the sunrise, do the morning offerings and break the fast as well. The offerings which down contain ‘Prasad’ which are strictly vegetarian and is cooked without salt, onion or garlic. They worship the Goddess ‘Chhathi Maiyya’, which is known as ‘Usha’ in the Vedas (Usha means dawn in English). Along with ‘Usha’, ‘Pratyusha’ (meaning dusk) is also worshipped, but it is done only in the evening. Both ‘Usha’ and ‘Pratyusha’ are believed to be the wives of Sun and are with the Sun for forever. In the night, the observer sleeps on the floor with a single blanket.
Also read about Jitiya Festival and Holi (Falgu Purnima)
To be precise, this is one of the very few Hindu festivals which do not have any requirement of the ‘Pandit’ (meaning priest). The whole process of Chhath is divided into six stages of Conscious Photoenergization Process, according to the Yoga Philosophy. There are several benefits of the process in the body and mind, which include improvement of immunity, prevail of calmness, and so on. Though the worshippers are mostly women, a large number of men do this Puja as well. The devotees merely worship the Sun, and once a person starts to do the worship in this festival, it will become their duty to repeat the task every year, and pass it on to the following generations. If any of the family dies in a particular year, the very next Chhath puja is skipped of that year.
The Hymn, which is used for the Chhath Puja (the Chhath Mantra) is:
एष ब्रम्हा च विष्णुष्च शिव: स्कन्द: प्रजापती: ।
महेन्द्रोधनद: कालो यम: सोमो ह्यपाम्पति: ।।
एनमापत्सु क्रिच्छेषु कन्तारेषु भयेषु च ।
किर्तयन पुरुष्: कष्चिन्नवसिदती राघव ।।।
आदित्य्म सर्बकर्तंरं कलाद्वदाद्शम्युतमं ।
पद्महस्त्द्वयं वन्दे सर्वलोकैकभस्करमं ।।
Here are some scientifically proven benefits for the devotees of doing chhath puja:
- It detoxifies the body and mind which leads to the biochemical changes.
- A variety of skin infections can be cured through the safe radiations of sunlight.
- It increases the fighting power of blood by improving the performance of White Blood Cells
- The devotees can improve the immunity of their body.
- Solar energy provides the power to control the secretion of hormones.
- It provides mental calmness, enhances the energy levels and reduces the frequency of anger, jealousy and a lot of negative emotions.
It is also believed that the Chhath puja contributes on slowing down the ageing process by the devotees. At some places, Chaiti Shhath is also celebrated in the month of Chaitra (March or April), few days after the great Holi festival.