History and significance of "Chhath Puja"Written By Suresh Nikhar | Published on Oct 29, 2022, 11:47 IST | 1667024225634Desk: Meaning: The word “chhath” means sixth in Nepali, Maithili, and Bhojpuri languages. This festival is celebrated on the 6th day of the month of Kartikeya of the Hindu Luni-Solar Bikram Sambat calendar and that’s why the name is Chhath Puja. This word is a Prakrit descent from the Sanskrit word “Sashthi” and this festival is the longest and the most important festival of Hindus after the Navratri. It lasts for 4 days.
History: Some say that Chhath Puja is the oldest festival that may even precede the Ancient Vedas as the Rigveda contains hymns of worshipping the Sun and some similar rituals as followed in this festival. These rituals also have a mention in the Mahabharata where Draupadi is portrayed performing similar rituals. On the advice of astute Dhaumya, the rituals of Chhath were followed by the Pandavas and Draupadi. This worshipping of the Sun solved many problems of Draupadi and later helped the Pandavas to regain their kingdom. The scientific or yogic history of this festival dates back to the Vedic times when the scholars or rishis of yore used this technique to remain without food as they used to absorb energy from the rays of the sun. This was known as Chhath Method. Some ancient also suggest that Lord Rama and Sita kept fast and offered puja to the sun in the Kartika month during the Shukla Paksha during their coronation after returning from the exile.
Current Time: In the present time, Chhath is celebrated mostly in India and Nepal. The states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh in India and the Madhesh region of Nepal generally celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm. This festival is dedicated to the Sun and his younger wife Usha as an acknowledgment for the life on earth. So, there is no idol worship at all! Some Muslim people also celebrate Chhath. As there is no idol worship so there is no use of plastic, color, metals, etc. in constructing an idol & later immersing those idols on nearby water bodies that leads to pollution. That’s why this festival is regarded as the most eco-friendly Hindu festival by the environmentalists.
4 Day Rituals: The rituals of the festival are arduous and are observed over a period of four days. The rituals are: holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water called Vratta, standing in water for long periods of time, and offering Prasad (prayer offerings) and Arghya to the setting and rising sun. Some followers also perform a prostration march as they head for the river banks.
Chhathi Maiya: Along with the Sun, the Goddess who is worshipped during this Chhath Puja is known as Chhathi Maiya. Chhathi Maiya is also known as Usha in the Vedas and she is believed to be the beloved younger wife of Surya, the sun god. In Mithilanchal region she is also worshipped under the name of “RANA MAI”.
Significance Of Chhath Puja: Now apart from the religious significance of thanking the Sun for providing us a good life, there is some science too attached to the rituals of this festivals. The rituals demand to pray at the river bank or standing at the river bank for long hours and there is an explanation to it. The ultraviolet rays of the sun are at their lowest during sunrise and sunset and that’s why the sun rays are most beneficial at these two times. These sun rays then help in detoxifying the mind, body, and soul by removing all negative energies.
Places of Chhath Celebration: As said earlier, this festival is ornately celebrated among people of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhesh region of India and Nepal respectively. But people who shifted their base from these regions to elsewhere have also not stopped celebrating Chhath. So, one can see Chhath celebration in Northern, Southern, and Central urban centers in India too. Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Bengaluru, etc. also celebrate Chhath. Similarly, people of Indian or Nepalese origin residing in Mauritius, United States of America, Fiji, United Kingdom, South Africa, Republic of Ireland, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Jamaica, Guyana, other parts of the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Macau, Japan, and Indonesia also celebrate Chhath Puja with dedication.
No Idol Worship: This is the only Hindu festival or perhaps the only festival in the world that signifies the rising and the setting Sun. The most unique feature of this Chhath Puja is that there is no Murti Pujan or Idol Worshipping unlike most of the festivals of the Hindu religion. Some people simply opine that Sun is necessary for the life of possibly every creature on the earth and this festival is a way to pay tribute to it irrespective of caste, creed, gender, race, and social stigmas.