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All About Chhath Puja: Celebrating the Sun and Life

The word “Chhath” translates to sixth in Nepali, Maithili, and Bhojpuri languages, signifying the celebration on the 6th day of the month of Kartikeya in the Hindu Luni-Solar Bikram Sambat calendar. Chhath Puja, derived from the Sanskrit word “Sashthi,” is the longest and most significant Hindu festival after Navratri, lasting for four days.

History: Considered one of the oldest festivals, Chhath Puja’s roots may precede the Ancient Vedas. Rigveda contains hymns worshiping the Sun, similar to rituals in this festival. The Mahabharata also depicts Draupadi performing comparable rituals, suggesting the festival’s historical depth. The festival has Vedic ties, with scholars absorbing energy from the sun through the Chhath Method. Legends associate Lord Rama and Sita observing fasts and offering puja to the sun during their coronation.

Current Time: Chhath is predominantly celebrated in India and Nepal, notably in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and the Madhesh region of Nepal. Dedicated to the Sun and Usha (Chhathi Maiya), the festival avoids idol worship, making it eco-friendly. Some Muslim communities also partake in Chhath.

4 Day Rituals: Chhath Puja rituals span four days, including holy bathing, fasting (Vratta), standing in water, and offering prayers and Arghya to the sun. A prostration march to river banks is also performed by some devotees.

Chhathi Maiya: Chhathi Maiya, also known as Usha, is the revered goddess of Chhath Puja. Believed to be the younger wife of Surya, the sun god, she is worshiped for her association with the festival.

Significance: Apart from thanking the Sun for life, Chhath Puja holds scientific significance. The rituals, like standing at the river bank during sunrise and sunset, harness the sun’s ultraviolet rays for their therapeutic benefits, detoxifying mind, body, and soul.

Places of Celebration: While the festival’s heartland is Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhesh, those who migrated continue celebrating in other Indian regions like Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Bengaluru, etc. Global celebrations extend to Mauritius, the United States, Fiji, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and various other countries where people of Indian or Nepalese origin reside.

No Idol Worship: Chhath Puja uniquely signifies the rising and setting Sun. It stands out by refraining from Murti Pujan or Idol Worshipping, emphasizing the Sun’s significance for all life forms on Earth, transcending barriers of caste, creed, gender, race, and social stigma.

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