Over the years, Chhath Puja has taken a great significance and it’s celebrated with much fervor across India. It holds importance because this festival is for praising the Sun God. With this festival, people, especially the women folk put forward their offerings and thank the Sun God for sustaining life on planet earth. In addition to this, prayers are offered for the well being and happiness of family members. According to many Indian religions, worship of the Sun is believed to cure various ailments and ensures longevity life.
Among the states of India, Bihar celebrates Chhath Puja with utmost full pomp and show. It is celebrated after Diwali and usually falls in the month of October and November. This period is also called the Shukla Paksha. Only married woman or widows are allowed to observe the fast or Vrat during the festival because it’s primarily meant for the well-being of one’s progeny. Unmarried women are not permitted to observe fast on this day. It has been seen that men these days are equally keen to observe a fast on this auspicious occasion. The complete ritual of Bihar Chhath Puja is observed over a time of four days.
The History of Chhath Puja goes back to centuries. The rituals of Chhath Puja are provided in many books, whereby one can track the line and link of this auspicious occasion.
The Chhath Puja in Bihar is said to have been started by the Brahmins of Dwipi origin. The kings of the region invited the Brahmins to worship lord Sun. It is believed that during the fast, these Brahmins would take energy from the sun by praying to Lord Surya. The hymns or the mantras recited during the festival are even found in the Rigveda, which is the ancient textbook of Hindus.
Another version of the Bihar Chhath Puja is also seen in a chapter of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, where queen Draupadi observed her fast and prayed to Lord Sun after which she was able to solve her problems. It is even believed that the Pandavas also observed the fast and offered prayers to Lord Surya to regain their kingdom.
With time, the popularity of Chhath puja has surpassed all regions and it’s celebrated across India with equal fervor.
Many stories are associated with the Chhath Puja. One of them is about a saint called Maharishi Chyawan. It is said that he was blind by both eyes. To cure his blindness, the saint offered prayers to Lord Surya during the Shukla Paksha on which Chhath Puja is observed. With the help of the prayers and mantras, he is believed to have cured his blindness and later on created a medicine, which is today popularly known as the Chyawanprash. History denotes that the Chhath Puja was started somewhere around 1300 BC.
The significance of Chhath Puja is also said to come from Karna, who is considered the son of Lord Surya. Karna ruled Anga Desh, which is today the Bhagalpur district of Bihar.
The Chhath Puja, as it is celebrated today, lasts for over four days and it’s celebrated with much full pomp and show. It is observed by women for the longevity of their son.
Chhath Puja is an ancient and traditional festival in Bihar. It is celebrated twice in a year. First, it is celebrated during the summers (after Holi) and the second time during winters (after Diwali). The Chhath observed during summers is known as Chaiti, and the one celebrated during winters is known as the Kartik Chhath. The fast during Chhath Puja lasts for three days without eating or drinking.
Women who observe Chhath Puja find it easier to fast during the winters in comparison to summers as it is easy to stay without food and water. During the days of Chhath, Lord Surya is offered prayers twice in a day, during sun dawn and before sun set.
The rituals are performed on the banks of a flowing river, where women take a dip, offer their prayers and observe all the rituals. The duration of the prayers is mostly for 2-3 hours. The Chhath Puja is similar to a carnival where the woman of the house comes forward to perform rituals. In addition, numerous onlookers and helpers look forward to attain blessings during the auspicious occasion.
Women sing songs related to the puja while engaging in the different rituals. These songs are mostly traditional and folk songs, which have been in existence since ages. As the river Ganges flows through Bihar, it is a pleasant view to see women observe the Chhath Puja because the river comes alive with thousands of oil lit lamps.
The Bihar Chhath Puja is divided into four days and each day has its own significance. As the rituals of Chhath Puja are tedious, only few are able to continue with them.
The Chhath Puja is a difficult ritual because it’s divided into four days and every day holds its own significance.
Day 1: Nahay Khay
On the first day of the occasion, the person observing the puja takes a bath in the holy river Ganges. The food prepared on this day is without garlic and onions. It is prepared in pure Ghee. The first day is also known as Kaddu Bhat because rice (bhat) is prepared with dal and vegetables. Chuttney is also prepared.
Day 2: Lohanda/ Kharna (one day before Chhath)
Woman observing the puja stay on fast till evening and celebrate with rituals all through the day. They break their fast in the evening with Kheer, Puri and fruits. Jaggery is used to sweeten the Kheer instead of sugar. The person who is observing the Chhath is known as the Parvaitin. Once the second day is over, the Parvaitin goes on fast without water for 36 hours.
Day 3: Chhath
The entire day is spent making delicacies, which are used to serve offerings to the river in the evening. On this day, the Parvaitin has to be dressed like a bride while making the offerings to Lord Surya.
Day 4: Paarun
On the last day, morning offerings known as the Bihaniya Aragh ar served and the fast is broken.
Many mouthwatering dishes are prepared during the Chhath Puja. Here are some special recipes only prepared during the days of the puja.
This is one of the main dishes prepared during the Chhath Puja. It is sweet in taste and is prepared using flour and sugar.
Prepared with use of flour, this is a fried bread that can be consumed with any cuisine. Black Cumin seeds can be added to the dough.
Special quality rice along with jaggery, mild and dry fruits are used to making this dish. Cardamom is added to give the dish a wonderful aroma.
Pua or Malpua
Made with plain flour, this is a dry sweet dish made with delectable ingredients.
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