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Chhath

Chhath (Hindi: छठ, also called Dala Chhath) is an ancient Hindu festival dedicated to the Hindu Sun God, Surya, also known as Surya Shashti. The Chhath Puja is performed in order to thank Surya for sustaining life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes. The Sun, considered the god of energy and of the life-force, is worshiped during the Chhath fesival to promote well-being, prosperity and progress. In Hinduism, Sun worship is believed to help cure a variety of diseases, including leprosy, and helps ensure the longevity and prosperity of family members, friends, and elders.

The rituals of the festival are rigorous and are observed over a period of four days. They include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water (Vratta), standing in water for long periods of time, and offering prashad (prayer offerings) and aragh to the setting and rising sun.

Although it is observed most elaborately in Bihar, Jharkhand and the Terai regions of Nepal in modern times, and is more prevalent in areas where migrants from those areas have a presence, it is celebrated in all regions and major urban centers in India. The festival is celebrated in the regions including but not exclusive to the northeast region of India, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Delhi, Mumbai and Mauritius

History

It is believed that the Maga Purohits (modern days known as Shakya Dwipi Brahmins) were invited by local kings for their expertise in Sun worshiping. They started the tradition of Chhat Puja. Today Chhat Puja is celebrated specially in those places where Shakya Dwipi Brahmins are found.

It is believed that the ritual of Chhath puja may even predate the ancient Vedas texts, as the Rigveda contains hymns worshiping the Sun god and describes similar rituals. The rituals also find reference in the Sanskrit epic poem Mahābhārata in which Draupadi is depicted as observing similar rites.

In the poem, Draupadi and the Pandavas, rulers of Hastinapur (modern Delhi), performed the Chhath ritual on the advice of noble sage Dhaumya. Through her worship of the Sun God, Draupadi was not only able to solve her immediate problems, but also helped the Pandavas later regain their lost kingdom.

It is also believed that Chhath was started by Karna, the son of Surya (Surya Putra Karna). Surya Putra Karna ruled over the Anga Desh (present day Munger district of Bihar) during the Mahabharat Age. He was a great warrior and fought against the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra War.

Its yogic/scientific history dates back to the Vedic times. The rishis of yore used this method to remain without any external intake of food as they were able to obtain energy directly from the sun’s rays. This was done through the Chhath method.[8]The chhat puja is very popular in Dehri-On-Sone(Rohtas),Patna, Dev & Gaya. Now a days it is celebrated in approximately all parts of India. Chhath Pooja is also celebrated in Mangalore, Karnataka. People from Bihar & UP celebrate Chhath Pooja on Panambur Beach.

Rituals and traditions

Chhath is a ritual bathing festival that follows a period of abstinence and ritual segregation of the worshiper from the main household for four days. During this period, the worshiper observes ritual purity, and sleeps on the floor on a single blanket.

This is the only holy festival which has no involvement of any pandit (priest). The devotees offer their prayers to the setting sun, and then the rising sun in celebrating its glory as the cycle of birth starts with death. It is seen as the most glorious form of Sun worship.

Bihar has a number of Sun temples, flanked by a surajkund or sacred pool of the Sun, forming a popular venue for the celebration of this festival.Patna,Bhagalpur,Munger, Haveli Kharagpur( Banahara) ,Samastipur,Dumka,sahibganj, Dev, Gaya, ranchi,Rampurhat are known popular for chhath puja.

The main worshipers, called Parvaitin (from Sanskrit parv, meaning ‘occasion’ or ‘festival’), are usually women. However, a large number of men also observe this festival. The parvaitin pray for the well-being of their family, for prosperity and for offspring. Once a family starts performing Chhatt Puja, it is their duty to perform it every year and to pass it on to the following generations. The festival is skipped only if there happens to be a death in the family that year.

The prasad offerings include sweets(Thekua) and fruit offered in small bamboo winnows. The food is strictly vegetarian and it is cooked without salt, onions or garlic. Emphasis is put on maintaining the purity of the food.

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