With roots in Mahabharata and Ramayana, Chhath Puja also has certain health benefits.
Chhath Puja is a four-day-long affair. A prominent festival for the North Indian state of Bihar and certain regions of Uttar Pradesh and Nepal, Chhath Puja rituals start on the sixth day of Hindu calendar month, Kartika.
Starting today, October 26, Chhath Puja festivities span across four days and are observed to worship the Sun god and seek his blessings for the overall prosperity of the family. The fervor around the puja is marked by offering prayers to the Sun god, fasting and taking dips into the holy waters of Ganga.
The grandest festival for those who observe it, Chhath Puja is also a stringent one that encourages frugality and abstinence from food and water.
Here’s everything you need to know about the legend, significance and rituals around Chhath Puja.
While the exact origins of Chhath Puja remain undefined and ambiguous, some believe it dates all the way back to Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The two legends associated with Chhath Puja are as follows:
Said to be a descendant of the Sun god, some say Lord Rama has a lot to do with the inception of Chhath Puja. On returning to Ayodhya after the exile, Lord Rama and Sita observed a fast in honor of the Sun god and broke it only at the break of dawn next day–a ritual that subsequently evolved into the Chhath Puja.
Prominent mythological character Karna is said to be the child of Sun god and Kunti. It is said that Karna religiously offered his prayers while standing in the water and distributed prasad among the needy. Yet another story mentions how Draupadi and the Pandavas performed a similar puja to win their kingdom back.
Some say Chhath Puja also has roots in science as it helps the human body get to rid of toxicity. Taking dips in water and exposing oneself to the Sun increases the flow of solar bio-electricity that improves the overall functionality of the human body. Some also believe that Chhath Puja helps eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses from the body thus preparing one for the onset of the winter season.
Day 1: Naha Kha/ Nahaye Khaye
On the first day of Chhath, devotees do not consume food before taking a bath, after which they prepare food items like chane ki daal, kheer, kaddu ki sabzi among others.
Day 2: Kharna
Devotees fast till the Kharna puja concludes. After which a combination of jaggery-laden kheer and puris is offered to the gods and distributed among those who’d observed the fast.
Day 3: Pehla Arghya
The toughest and third day of Chhath has devotees–mostly women–observe a rigid fast where they neither consume water nor food. Dedicated to Sun god’s consort, Chhathi Maiya this day is marked with folk songs and taking dips in the holy waters of Ganga, Kosi and Karnali–that goes on till the sun sets.
Day 4: Doosra Arghya/ Paaran
Devotees break their long fast after offering prayers to the rising Sun.