Chhath Puja is an ancient Hindu Vedic festival celebrated majorly in Bihar. On the day of this festival, people offer their gratitude to the Sun God by gathering at the banks of the holy river, the Ganges. After a dip in the holy waters, they offer their prayers to God while performing important festival rituals.
Chhath Puja is one of Bihar's biggest festivals, where thousands of devotees participate in the sacred traditional festivities. Celebrated for a period of four days, this festival is a time of great fun and fervour. People can be seen having fun as devotional songs are played, and folk dances are performed to light up the overall celebrations.
Men and women can be seen wearing colourful attire. Not many people know that this festival is known for observing fasts and cleaning their utensils. The dates of the festival keep on fluctuating year by year. But generally, it falls sometime between the months of October and November, right after the festival of Diwali.  
While Chhath Puja is primarily a festival of Bihar, it is also celebrated in various other Indian states like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and even in some regions of Nepal.
It is interesting to know that the festival of Chhath Puja is primarily dedicated to the Sun God and his better halves Usha (first light of the day) and Pratyusha (last light of the day). It is basically done so to thank them for providing Earth with many life-giving bounties of nature, owing to which the possibility of life could happen on Earth. 

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Rituals And Traditions Of Chhath Puja Festival

Although the festival of Chhath Puja is majorly observed by the females of a household and doesn't include any kind of idol worship, a large section of men also performs this Puja. This clearly depicts that Chhath Puja is not at all gender-specific.

While performing the Puja, the devotees pray for their family's well-being and their children's success and health. What makes the festival of Chhath Puja actually tough is the fact that once a person initiates the ceremonies relating to Chhath Puja, it becomes compulsory for him or her to perform it every year and also teach their children to do the same when they grow up. The festival can be skipped only if there has been a death in the family. However, if a person stops performing Chhath Puja without any reason, they cannot involve themselves in the festivities in the future ever again. 

On this day, people make a diverse variety of signature dishes of Bihar in their homes, such as sweets, kheer, thekua, and rice laddu, which they use as prasad. This prasad is normally offered in small winnows made of bamboo. Apart from the prasad, even regular food is strictly vegetarian and is cooked without the use of salt, onions, and garlic.

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History of Chhath Puja Celebrations

It has been said that the rituals of Chhath Puja may even date back to the ancient era of the Vedas. The Rig Veda features hymns that excessively praise Lord Surya. Interestingly, some of these customs also find mention in the epic Mahabharata, where Draupadi is described as performing the same rituals. 

It has been stated in these scriptures that Draupadi and Arjuna religiously performed the rituals of this Puja on the recommendation of the great saint Dhaumya. It is believed that owing to these rituals, Draupadi overcame the struggles in her life and played a vital role in helping Pandavas defeat Kauravas and regain their kingdom.

It is also believed that in ancient times, the sages used to perform these rituals and gained energy directly from the Sun. Due to this, they could remain alive for a longer period of time without any food intake. 

Another interesting anecdote that describes the historical mention of this Puja ritual is the story of Lord Rama and Goddess Sita. As per the story, it is believed that after returning to Ayodhya and defeating the demon king, Raavana, Lord Rama, and Goddess Sita kept a fast for each other. While fasting, they offered their prayers to Sun God in the month of Kartik during the time of the former's coronation as King. Since then, Chhath Puja has become one of the major festivals in the Hindu religion. 

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Major Attractions Of the Chhath Puja Festival

People gather at the banks of the river Ganga just when dawn breaks to worship the Sun God and to take a bath in the holy waters. The festival involves a lot of fasting and feasting while people pray to God for a good life and blessings for their loved ones. Look at diverse rituals and traditions observed on the four-day-long festival.  

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Nahaye Khaye

Locally, the first day of this festival is also known as Nahaye Khaye, in which people generally take a bath and eat lentils, rice and bottle gourd in their meals. The idea behind the meals is to only eat Sattvic food for internal purification. After returning from the ghat, they clean their homes to eliminate negative vibes and evil. After cleaning their homes, they prepare the food cooked without adding garlic or onions to the dish. Chulhas or earthen stoves are used to cook food. In the absence of chulhas, a separate gas stove and cylinder are used for this purpose. Meals are prepared in pure ghee, and no cooking oil is added to the dishes. The main dishes prepared on Nahaye Khaye are channa or chickpeas, rice, and kaddu or pumpkin. 

In Bihar, one or more family members usually keep the Chhath Puja fast. They are referred to as vratin, meaning those who are fasting. The rest of the family members arrange to carry out various rituals and traditions observed on this day.

Kharna

Also known as Kharna, on this day, people observe fasting and, at night, eat the prasad. Vratins observe an anhydrous fast or fast without having a sip of water from sunrise to sunset. They open their fast only after elaborate evening prayers. Kheer, a dessert made up of rice and milk is prepared as prasad. It is served with pua and chapatis. Dal, rice, and chutney is also prepared on this day.

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Also known as Kharna, on this day, people observe fasting and, at night, eat the prasad. Vratins observe an anhydrous fast or fast without having a sip of water from sunrise to sunset. They open their fast only after elaborate evening prayers. Kheer, a dessert made up of rice and milk is prepared as prasad. It is served with pua and chapatis. Dal, rice, and chutney is also prepared on this day.

Sanjh ka Arag

Chhath Puja is locally known as Sanjh ka Arag where people generally offer their prayers to the setting sun. After observing a day-long fast, vratins take a holy dip in River Ganga and offer prayers to the Sun God. They gather at the ghat in the evening to offer Sanjh ka Arag. As part of evening offerings to the deity, water, milk, baddhi, a colourful thread, and soop filled with sugarcane, fruits, paan, and shakarkand are offered. Women vratins open their fast with a hard, wheat-based cake called thekua and return home for Kosi. It is a ritual where a mandap is set up, a miniature elephant is kept in the middle of the mandap, and colourful rangolis are made. Prasad filled in small sand saucers placed around the mandap. 

Bhor Ka Arag

This one is also known as Bhor Ka Arag or Usha arghya. Usually, on the fourth day of Chhath Puja, people wait for sunrise, after which they take a dip into the holy waters of the Ganges and purify themselves. With this, four-day-long Chhath Puja rituals come to an end. Crackers are burst, and a lot of joy and excitement is observed amongst the devotees. 
Chhath Puja is one of the major and biggest festivals in Bihar. Although it is celebrated across the country, it is predominantly celebrated by people belonging to Maithili and Bhojpuri communities.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Chhath Puja

Ques 1. Where is Chhath Puja celebrated?
Ans 1.
Although Chhath Puja is celebrated all around the world, it is the biggest festival in Bihar. It is majorly celebrated by people belonging to Maithili and Bhojpuri communities.

Ques 2. How are the four days of Chhath Puja celebrated?
Ans 2.
Chhath Puja is a four-day-long festival. It is celebrated by observing elaborate rituals.

  • First Day. Locally, the first day of this festival is also known as Nahaye Khaye,in which people generally take a bath and eat lentils, rice and bottle gourd in their meals. 
  • Second Day.Also known asKharna, on this day, generally, people observe fasting and, at night, eat the prasad
  • Third Day.Chhath Puja is locally known as Sanjh ka Arag where people generally offer their prayers to the setting sun.
  • Fourth Day.This one is also known as Bhor Ka Arag. Usually, on the fourth day of Chhath Puja, people wait for sunrise, after which they take a dip into the holy waters of the Ganges and purify themselves. 

Ques 3. How do we celebrate Chhath Puja?
Ans 3.
This ancient Vedic festival is celebrated with immense devotion and respect for nature. On the day of this festival, people offer their gratitude to the Sun God by gathering at the banks of the holy river, the Ganges. There, they take a dip in the holy waters and offer their prayers to God while performing important rituals of this festival.

 

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