How Hindus Perform Chhath Puja for Sun God•
Posted on November 10 2021
The Chhath Puja is typically celebrated on the sixth day after Diwali/Deepavali. This is the sixth day of the Kartik month. The puja takes place over a span of four days and is done in dedication to Lord Surya to honour Him for bestowing the people on earth with an abundance of life. Lord Surya is worshipped along with his sister Chhath Mayya during this period. Chhath Mayya is said to offer support to the poor and provide them with strength.
Hindus also observe the puja rituals as an appeal to the Sun God for granting their requests. Some of them carry out this puja for the prosperity, happiness, and long life of their children. Surya Shasthi, as the festival is otherwise called, is more popular in North India compared to the south. It is observed with maximum fervor in Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh compared to the rest of the country.
The rituals observed for Chhat Puja are very rigid compared to those followed for various other festivals. These include taking a holy bath, standing in water and facing the sun for a long time, refraining from drinking water, offering prasad as well as arghya to the rising and setting sun. The arghya is a special offering made in the evening of the first of the four days and the morning of the second day.
Food Prepared During Chhath Puja
The food prepared for Chhath Puja is prepared using wheat, rice, fresh and dry fruits, jaggery, nuts, coconut, and ghee. The prasad is prepared without onion and garlic.
Thekua is one of the most common foods prepared as prasad during the Chhath Puja. This is a cookie made using whole wheat flour. It is primarily prepared by Biharis who celebrate this festival.
The Four-Day Ritual
- Day 1 – Nahay Khay
The Chhath Puja rituals begin on this day. Devotees take a bath in a riverbank and clean their house thoroughly. Women members of the family have only one home-cooked meal the whole day. This meal is eaten only after praying to the Sun God and offering Him the food as prasad to safeguard their minds from thoughts of vengeance. The prasad is usually rice, pumpkin curry, and gram dal.
- Day 2 – Lohanda or Kharna
This day is also known as Rasiaav-Roti. Followers fast the whole day until evening. They do not drink even a drop of water. The fast is observed from sunrise to sunset and is broken after sunset by partaking in the prasad made for the lord. The prasad is usually a kheer made of jaggery or gur made on an earthen stove and is known as rasiaav. Some devotees also have bananas, rice, or rotis. After this meal, devotees follow a rigid fast for the upcoming 36 hours without even a drop of water or a morsel of food.
- Day 3 – Sandhya Arghya
This day is called Sanjhiya Gha. Women dress in turmeric or yellow-coloured saris when performing their rituals on this day. They take a bamboo basket filled with rice ladoos, thekuas, and fruits to a nearby pond or a river in the evening or during the Kartik Shukla Shashthi and stand knee-deep in water. The whole family gathers around the water body and do an arghya. They offer Lord Surya milk and water and Chhath Maaya some prasad from the basket. At night, the family sings songs in honour of Shahshti Devi and narrates stories of the vrat.
- Day 4 – Usha Arghya
This is the last day of the Chhat Puja and the arghya to the Sun God is done in the morning. Devotees reach a riverbank before sunrise and offer the arghya as the sun rises. They pray for the protection of their children and the happiness of the entire family. They break their fast after saying their prayers by taking a little prasad and sharing among family members. Worshippers eat a simple meal of boiled rice, cooked Bengal gram dal, bottle gourd, greens, and rice kheer cooked in a mud pot.
The rituals observed for Chhat Puja have a lot of scientific significance. Devotees pray to the Sun God at the riverbank during sunrise and sunset. The ultraviolet radiations in the sunrays are least at these timings, which makes them beneficial for the human body and mind. The festival rituals help get rid of the negative energies in the body and develop a positive mindset. While detoxifying the body, soul, and mind at the same time.
There are various references to the origin of Chhath Puja in Hindu scriptures. According to the Ramayana, when Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya with his wife Sita Devi after exile, they fasted on the Shashti of the Kartik month and prayed to the Sun God. Sri Rama is said to have observed the fast and prayed to Lord Surya for His blessings in establishing the Ram Rajya. The Mahabharata also has a couple of references in this regard. Karna used to bathe in the river daily and offer arghya daily to the Sun God who was also his father. The Mahabharata also mentions observing Chhath and prayed to Lord Surya fast for the happy life and good health of the Pandavas. Her fast and prayers helped them regain their lost kingdom.
Written by Deepthi K