Nahay Khay: The Purifying Dawn of Chhath Pooja•
Posted on November 17 2023
Chhath Pooja, a soulful and revered festival in India, unfolds with a series of rituals, each carrying profound spiritual significance. Among these, the first day, known as Nahay Khay, sets the tone for the entire celebration. This day is not just about cleansing the body; it marks the purification of the soul and the commencement of a journey filled with devotion and gratitude towards Lord Surya and Chhathi Maiya.
Nahay Khay’s rituals hold spiritual richness and sacred devotion towards the sun deity. Here’s how the day begins:
1) The Essence of Nahay Khay
Nahay Khay, which translates to "bathing and eating," signifies the purification of the body and a symbolic preparation for the upcoming days of Chhath Pooja. It emphasises the importance of cleanliness and spiritual purity before embarking on the divine journey of worship.
2) The Ritualistic Bath
The day begins with devotees taking a ceremonial dip in a sacred river, pond, or water body. This ritualistic bath is not just a physical cleansing but a symbolic act of purifying the mind and soul. The flowing water represents the continuous flow of divine energy, washing away impurities and negativities.
3) Devotion to the Sun God
After the holy bath, devotees wear freshly cleaned clothes and perform prayers dedicated to Lord Surya. The rising sun during Nahay Khay is particularly significant, symbolising the commencement of the Chhath Pooja rituals. The prayers express gratitude for the life-sustaining energy provided by the sun.
4) Simple and Sattvic Meal
Following the bath and prayers, devotees observe a simple and pure meal. This meal, often comprising rice, dal, and vegetables, is considered sattvic (pure and harmonious) and is consumed without the use of onions or garlic. It reflects a commitment to a clean and simple lifestyle during the pooja.
5) Setting the Spiritual Tone
Nahay Khay serves as a spiritual initiation for the devotees. The act of cleansing, praying, and partaking in a sattvic meal creates a harmonious environment for the upcoming rituals of Chhath Pooja. It sets the tone for a period of deep introspection, devotion, and connection with the divine.
6) The Symbolism of Water
Water plays a central role in Nahay Khay. Beyond its physical cleansing properties, water symbolises purity, renewal, and the life force. As devotees immerse themselves in water, they also immerse their souls in the spiritual journey ahead, seeking blessings for themselves and their loved ones.
7) Community and Family Bonding
Nahay Khay is often a family affair, with members coming together to perform the rituals. The collective act of bathing and praying fosters a sense of unity, love, and shared devotion. Families share the joy of spiritual cleansing, reinforcing the importance of togetherness in the Chhath Pooja celebrations.
- Chhath Pooja, including Nahay Khay, has historical roots dating back to the Vedic period. The rituals associated with Chhath Pooja are believed to have originated to express gratitude to the sun god, Lord Surya, for sustaining life on Earth.
- The mention of similar rituals can be found in ancient scriptures, highlighting the enduring nature of these practices over centuries.
Legends and Folktales
1) The Story of Karna and Surya
As per Hindu beliefs, Karna, a key figure in the Mahabharata, was the son of Lord Surya. Karna is renowned for his unwavering devotion to the sun god. The rituals performed during Nahay Khay symbolise the purity and dedication that Karna exhibited in his reverence for Lord Surya.
2) Draupadi's Observance of Nahay Khay
According to folklore, Draupadi, the queen from the Mahabharata, faced hardships during her exile. Seeking strength and guidance, she observed Nahay Khay rituals to purify herself before performing Chhath Pooja. This legend emphasises the cleansing and spiritual significance associated with Nahay Khay.
3) The Legend of Sita's Purity
According to a popular legend, during her exile, Sita, the wife of Lord Rama, observed the Nahay Khay rituals to seek purity and divine blessings. It is believed that Sita's unwavering devotion and adherence to the rituals during Chhath Pooja played a crucial role in her eventual reunion with Lord Rama.
4) The Miracle of River Yamuna
In the ancient city of Mathura, there is a tale of a devotee who, despite being physically challenged, ardently observed Nahay Khay rituals. Legend has it that as the devotee immersed in the waters of the Yamuna River, the river's flow miraculously changed, making it easier for the devotee to perform the rituals. This story symbolises the divine intervention that occurs when rituals are performed with true devotion.
5) The Origin in the Ramayana
The roots of Chhath Pooja, including Nahay Khay, are believed to trace back to the Ramayana. When Lord Rama and Sita returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana, the people of Ayodhya welcomed them by lighting lamps and observing rituals, akin to Chhath Pooja. Nahay Khay, in this context, symbolises the beginning of purification and celebrations.
6) The Tale of Sage Kashyapa and Aditi
According to Hindu folklore, Sage Kashyapa and his wife Aditi are revered for their devotion. Aditi, seeking the blessings of Lord Surya, observed Nahay Khay rituals with utmost dedication. Pleased with her sincere devotion, Lord Surya blessed Aditi with prosperity and happiness.
7) The Transformation of a Leper
There is a folklore about a kind-hearted leper who, despite his physical challenges, observed Nahay Khay rituals with deep devotion. Legend has it that Lord Surya, moved by the sincerity of the leper, appeared before him and granted him divine blessings. The leper was miraculously cured, symbolising the transformative power of true devotion.
Nahay Khay, the inaugural day of Chhath Pooja, holds profound spiritual significance. It captures the essence of purity, simplicity, and devotion that define the entire celebration. As devotees embark on the sacred journey of Chhath Pooja, Nahay Khay serves as a sacred dawn, signalling the beginning of a spiritual journey filled with gratitude, love and a deep connection with Lord Surya and Chhathi Maiya.