Chhath Puja is an important Hindu festival that is mainly celebrated in Bihar and some regions of Nepal. The puja is dedicated to the worship of the Sun god and his wife Usha. During the occasion, devotees perform puja to thank god for supporting life on earth and seek the divine couple’s blessing. However, Chhath – the main day – isn’t the first day but the third day of the puja.
According to Hindu religion, the Sun is believed to heal many severe health conditions and ensure longevity, prosperity, progress and well-being. People celebrate the festival by following a rigorous routine that lasts four days. The rituals include: fasting (including abstinence from drinking water), holy bathing, offering prayers to the rising and setting sun, and meditating by standing in water.
History of Chhath Puja
It is believed that the celebration of Chhath puja may predate to the ancient Vedas, as the rituals performed during the puja are similar to the ones mentioned in Rig Veda, in which the Sun god is worshipped. At the time, the rishis (sages) were also known to worship the Sun and remain without intake of good as they would obtain their energy directly from the sun. However, another significance of the puja is attached to the story of Lord Rama.
According to ancient texts, Rama and his wife Sita had kept fast and offered prayers to the Sun god, in the month of Kartika in Shukla Paksh, once they returned to the Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. From then on, the Chhath Puja became a significant and traditional Hindu festival, which is celebrated with zeal and zest every year.
Chhath Puja Celebrations
The four-day festival starts four days after Diwali. This is how the devotees observe the festival.
Nahay Khay: The first day of Chhath Puja, devotees take a dip, preferably in the Kosi river, Karnali and Ganga, and carry home the holy water to prepare the offerings.
Lohanda: The second day, the devotees observe a fast for the whole day, which ends in the evening a little after sunset. After worshipping the Sun and the Moon, they prepare offerings of kheer, bananas and rice for their family. After consuming the offering, they fast for 36 hours without water.
Sandhya Arghya (evening offerings): After preparing the prasad, the devotees take a dip in the holy water body in the evening and worship the Sun god and Chhathi maiyya. They offer the evening offerings amid folk songs.
Usha Arghya: The fourth day, devotees go to the holy waters and offer morning offerings or ‘Usha arghya’ to the sun, following which they break their fast.
Devotees during this period observe purity and live frugally. They sleep on the floor on a single blanket. The main festival is commemorated on the third day of Chhath, when the Sun god is offered Surya Namaskar and fruits.
BENEFITS OF CHHATH PUJA
- It triggers insulin secretion: Fasting during Chhath Puja may increase insulin secretion in the body. When you fast for longer periods, the brain sends a signal to increase insulin level in the body. As a result, insulin absorbs glucose in blood more effectively.
- Recharge your immune system: Fasting is actually a way to give your digestive system a break and flush out toxins from your body. Older cells die and new cells take place instead. As a result longevity is increased.
- Metabolism improved: Your body metabolism gets improved as a result of fasting. Digestion is improved and bowel movements are regulated.
- Fasting helps keep Alzheimer’s at bay: This may sound strange how fasting can affect the possibility of getting Alzheimer’s. Turns out, fasting has a considerable impact on the same. Fasting produces protein in the brain which keeps Alzheimer’s at bay.
SIGNIFICANCE OF CHHAT FESTIVAL
Chhath puja has a special SIGNIFICANCE during the Sunrise and Sunset periods. The Sunrise and sunset are the most important periods of the day during which a human body can safely get the solar energy without any harm. That’s why there is a myth of offering the Sanjhiya Arghya and Bihaniya Arghya to the Sun at the Chhath festival. During this period the solar energy has low level of ultraviolet radiations so it is safe for the human body. People perform the Chhath puja in order to thank the Lord Sun for continuing the life on the earth as well as to get blessings.