Chhath Puja 2021 – What makes Chhath Puja special in Bihar

Chhath Puja Bihar: Sun is the center of our solar system and is believed to be the sources of all forms of energy. This is why almost all civilizations have worshipped the Sun as a god. However, all civilizations worship only the rising sun. Chhath Puja is probably the only festival, which along with the rising sun, worships the setting sun.

When is Chhath Puja celebrated?

This festival is celebrated after few days of Diwali, the festival of lights, in the Hindu lunisolar month of Kartik. The festival falls on the shashti tithi during the shukla paksha.

The Chhath Puja is celebrated two times in the year – the first Puja is done few days after Holi on the ‘krishna-shashti’ of the Chaitra month. This Chhath Puja is called the “Chaithi Chhath’. The second Chhath Puja is done 5-6 days after Diwali, on the ‘shukla-shashti’ of the month of Hindu month Kartik. This Chhath Puja is more significant

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In the year 2021, the Chaithi Chhath will be celebrated on Sunday 18 April. The Kartik Chhath, will be celebrated on Wednesday, 10 November.

What makes Chhath Puja Special in Bihar?

Though Chhath is celebrated across India and even in foreign countries, for the states of Bihar and Jharkhand (which was earlier a part of Bihar only), this holds a great significance, even greater than Diwali. This is why; the Chhath Puja is termed as “Mahaparva (grand festival) in Bihar.

How is the festival celebrated in Bihar?

This 4-day festival is celebrated with great pomp and enthusiasm especially in the Indian state of Bihar. Though this festival is celebrated in other states of India as well, this festival has a special place in the hearts of the people of Bihar.

Other than Bihar and Jharkhand, the festival is celebrated in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and several other states. The people belonging to this diaspora make sure not to miss this festival. They either make it a point to return to their homes for the festival, or celebrate it in a grand manner, wherever they live. People of Bihar buy new clothes and gift for their friends and relatives.

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Almost all people observe fast and worship the Surya dev (the Sun god) and Chhathi Maata. The ladies, who observe this fast, are known as ‘parvatin’. The word ‘parv’ comes from the Sanskrit language and means festival or occasion, so the word ‘parvatin’ means, ‘one observing the festival’. This festival is not gender-specific, so apart from women of Bihar, many men also observe this fast.

Though this festival looks easy, it is not. Apart from worshipping, it involves standing underwater for long hours and fasting for about 36 hours.

Day-wise celebration in Bihar:

The festival starts 2 days in advance of shashti – i.e. the chaturthi of the month. As soon as the festivities of Diwali subside, the solemnity of Chhath Puja takes over Bihar. While the main lady of the house gets involved in preparing the bhog, the younger girls take over the responsibility of managing other household chores like cleaning, washing etc.

First Day: On the first day of the festival, the lady of the house or the ‘parvatin’ cooks special ‘Kaddu Bhaat’ has to be offered to the deity, as the ‘bhog’. This food has to be completely ‘satvik’, and the entire kitchen, including the gas or the chullah, and utensils are cleaned properly and purified with gangajal. This bhog does not make use of salt, onion, or garlic, as these ingredients are believed to have vengeful tendencies, and the food offered to deities and eaten this day should be free from such tendencies. After bhog, devotees worship the deities and eat this food as ‘prasad’.

Second Day: On day 2 of the festival, the parvatin prepares gur-kheer (jaggery-kheer) and offers it to the deity. After sunset, they eat this as prasad.                

Third-Day: On the third and the main day, they perform the ‘pehla-arag’, which means the first arghya to the Sun god. This arghya is offered on the evening of the third day when the sun is setting in the west. Ladies generally wear turmeric yellow coloured clothes. They listen to the Chhati Maata vrat-katha and sing songs in praise of her. The people form groups and start moving towards the banks of the Ganga (also called Ganges), singing devotional songs. As they approach the banks of Ganga, the group evolves into a huge procession of devotees. 

Chhath Puja

In this procession, the male members of the house carry the prasad in a basket of bamboo. As per the ritual, men have to be bare-chested. The prasad should not fall down or get touched by impure hands. So, the basket containing the prasad is carried by keeping it on the head. This also shows the significance of the prasad. The prasad basket contains laddoos, thekuwas and seasonal fruits. The mandatory items are coconuts, a bunch of bananas, an orange or two and always an earthen lamp, covered with a cotton cloth, dyed in turmeric.

Just before the time of sunset, the process reaches the banks of the Ganga. As the sun begins to set, people get inside the water and offer ‘arghya’ to the setting sun. While going into the water, one needs to be very careful, because slipping in the water is treated as a bad omen.

As the western sky becomes red due to the setting sun, the ritual presents a beautiful scene on the ground with millions of people holding aloft bamboo trays and baskets. As the light becomes dim, the several glowing diyas present a beautiful scene, full of devotion. Soon the entire atmosphere is abuzz with the singing and chanting of hymns and folk songs related to Chhati Maata and the Sun god. While some people stay there only, some people return home. At home, the ladies listen to the vrat-katha and sing songs in praise of the Chhati Maata.

To ensure that they don’t miss the rising sun, some people spend the night near the riverbank only. One can easily say that people living in Bihar, spend one night and one day on the banks of river Ganga. Since Ganga cuts across the river and is like a lifeline to the state of Bihar, it is but appropriate as the ideal location for prayers to the Sun god. On the day of Chhath puja, one can see millions of people throng the banks of river Ganga to perform this ritual.

Fourth day: The next day, the fourth and the last day of chhath puja, the people of Bihar visit the nearby riverbank to offer the ‘doosra-arag’ to the Sun god. The people get up early, take a bath and again move towards the banks of Ganga. They leave the home even before the break of the light, as they have to reach riverbanks before Sunrise.

Once they reach the banks of the river Ganga, the people turn towards the east. This time, they do not stand on the river bank but enter the water for the customary holy dip. As soon as the first ray of sunlight is visible on the eastern horizon, several men and women, dressed in their saris and dhotis (loincloth) plunge into the shallow waters. Once they get a foothold, they brave the chilling water and chant Vedic, as they stand for a long time in the water.                                    

One can easily say that people living in Bihar, spend one night and one day on the banks of river Ganga. Since Ganga cuts across the river and is like a lifeline to the state of Bihar, it is but appropriate as the ideal location for prayers to the Sun god. On the day of Chhath, one can see millions of people throng the banks of river Ganga to perform this ritual.

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Q. 1: Where is Chhath Puja celebrated?

Ans: Chhath Puja is mainly celebrated in Bihar and Jharkhand.

Q. 2: Who is worshipped during Chhath Puja?

Ans: During Chhath Puja, people worship Surya dev (the Sun god) and the Chhathi Mata, she is one of the nine forms of Maan Durga, called Katyayani.

Q. 3: What is the meaning of parvatin?

Ans: The word ‘parvatin’ comes from the word ‘parv’, which means festival or occasion. Hence the word, ‘parvatin’ means one who is celebrating the festival. In Bihar, the ladies who observe the fast and perform Chhath Puja are called ‘parvatin.

Q. 4: What do the people actually do on Chhath Puja?

Ans: On Chhath Puja, people worship the Sun god and Chhati Maata and pray for the general well-being of the children and their family. They indulge in holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water (nirjala-vrat). It also involves standing in water for long periods of time, and offering ‘prasad’ and ‘arghya’ to sun, both during sunset and sunrise.

Q. 5: Is Chhath Puja celebrated only in Bihar?

Ans: Though Chhath Puja is a Mahaparv in Bihar. But other than Bihar, Chhath is celebrated in Jharkhand and parts of other states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, and Mumbai. It is celebrated outside India only in countries like Nepal, Mauritius, Fiji, Indonesia, and even in countries like the UK and the USA.

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