There are some festivals that have been celebrated in India since The Vedic times. These festivals find a mention in many of our holy texts and legends. One such Hindu Vedic festival celebrated is Chhath Puja. This festival is the most popular festival among people living in Bihar and Jharkhand.
Chahath Puja 2021
|Day/Date in 2021||Wednesday, 10 November|
|Worships||Surya dev (Sum god) and Chhathi Maata (a form of Durga)|
|Celebrated on:||Shashti of Kartik month during the shukla paksh|
|Celebrated over:||4 days (shukla chaturthi to shukla saptami of Kartik month)|
When is Chhath Puja 2021 celebrated?
Chhath Puja, also called ‘Shashti Puja’, is celebrated on the shukla shashti (the 6th day) of the Kartik month as per the Hindu calendar. As per the Gregorian calendar, the festival falls in the month of October or November. The festival comes 5-6 days after Diwali, and in parts of Bihar, this festival is even bigger than Diwali and is called ‘Mahaparv’ (grand festival). The festival is celebrated in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and southern parts of Nepal. The diaspora of people, belonging to these regions, also celebrate the festival, wherever they are with great enthusiasm and religious fervour. Most people who work outside their villages make it a point to come to their village for this festival.
Chhath Puja is celebrated twice a year. Once, a few days after Holi, on the krishna shashti in the month of Chaitra and the other a few days after Diwali, on the shukla shashti in the month of Kartik. However, the latter one is more important.
Significance of Chhath Puja 2021:
This festival celebrated since Vedic time is devoted to Surya dev (the Sun god), and is probably the only festival dedicated to the Sun god. The Sun is the master of the universe and the source of all forms of energy. This festival is celebrated as a mark of gratitude to the Sun for bestowing us with so many gifts. People pray to Sun god to fulfill all their wishes.
Along with the Sun god, people also worship Chhathi Maata or Shashti Maata. Commonly known as Usha, Chhathi Mata is believed to be the ‘manas-putri’ (daughter) of Lord Brahma and sister of the Sun god. She is one of the 9 forms of Maan Durga, known as Katyayani Maata and is worshipped on the 6th day of the Navratri festival. During Chhath Puja, she is worshipped as ‘the goddess of the festival’. She is believed to bless young children with health and long life. Couples, who do not have children, seek the blessings of Chhathi Mata, and she blesses them with children.
This festival does not involve any idol worship and is celebrated by all people cutting across the caste and class system, which was very prevalent in ancient times. The festival signifies the ideals of equality, fraternity, unity and integrity among all human beings.
History of the festival:
In Ramayana, after killing Ravan, Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya on Amavasya. This day is celebrated as Diwali. As per the texts, 6 days after this, on the shashti tithi, was anointed as the king of Ayodhya, and thus the ‘Ramrajya’ was established. On this day, both Lord Rama and his wife Sita kept fast, offered arghya to Sun god and performed Surya Shashti/Chhath Puja. This way, the day also signifies the beginning of the ‘Ramrajya’. As a result of the Puja, Sita was blessed with two glorious sons, named Luv and Kush.
In the Mahabharata, Chhath Puja finds several mentions. It was first performed by Karna (who was actually the divine son of Surya dev himself). He was the ruler of the ‘Anga Desh, which is the modern-day Bhagalpur in the state of Bihar. He used to stand underwater for hours and offer arghya to the Sun god.
The Chhath Puja was performed by Kunti after she escaped safely from ‘Laksha-gruh’ (house made of lacquer wood) along with her 5 sons. The Puja was performed again by Draupadi and the Pandavas in order to solve their problems and regain their lost kingdom.
Legend associated with this Chhath Puja 2021:
According to a legend, mentioned in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, King Priyavrat, son of First Manu Swayambhu, used to be very sad, as he had no children. At the suggestion of Maharishi Kashyap, the king performed a yajna for a son. Soon, her wife Malini gave birth to a son, But unfortunately, the child was born dead. Everyone was sad because of this.
At that moment, there was a light in the sky and a Shashti Maata was seen in the sky. When the king prayed to her, she felt happy and introduced herself saying, “I am Shashti Devi, the manas-putri of Lord Brahma. I bless all children with health and childless parents with children.
After this, the deity touched the lifeless child and he got life. The king was very pleased and he worshipped the goddess Shashthi Devi. Since that day, this festival is celebrated worldwide.
How is Chhath Puja celebrated?
The Chhath Puja involves several rituals, which are very hard to follow. It involves strict fasting, even water is not allowed, and standing and praying underwater and taking holy dips. It also involves facing the sun for a long duration and offering ‘arghya’ to Sun during sunrise and sunset.
During this 4-day festival, the ladies (called parvaitin) observe the fast. This word is taken from Sanskrit and means, ‘one celebrating the festival’. Since this festival is not gender-specific, many men also observe fast. The parvaitin pray for the well-being and prosperity of their children and family.
This 4-day festival starts with ‘shukla-chaturthi’ and ends with ‘shukla saptami; of the Kartik month. Each day has its own significance.
- Day 1: On the first day of Chhath Puja, people take bath and clean their house properly. The parvaitin cook a ‘satvik’ (without using salt, onion, or garlic) Kaddu Bhaat (Bottle Gourd and Bengal Gram Lentil preparation with Arva Rice Bhaat). This preparation is offered to the deity as ‘bhog’. This bhog protects the mind from vengeful tendencies.
- Day 2: The second day is called ‘Kharna’, which means fasting for the whole day. On this day, devotees do not eat anything, not even water. In the evening, they offer ‘gur-kheer’ (jaggery payasam), seasonal fruits, and dry fruits to the deity. They eat this as prasad only after sunset.
- Day 3: This is the main day of the festival – the shashti. On this day, ‘pehla arag’ (the first arghya) is offered to the setting sun. In the evening, devotees decorate a bamboo basket with fruits, thekua and rice laddoos. Then they offer arghya to the sun god with water and milk. Chhathi Maata is worshipped from a supdi filled with prasad. Women generally wear turmeric yellow colour clothes while performing this ritual. After worshipping Sun God, people listen to vrat Katha and sing songs of Chhathi Maata in the night.
- Day 4: On the last day of the puja, people offer ‘doosra arag’ (the second arghya) to the sun at the time of sunrise. The devotees visit a nearby riverbank for this purpose. They pray Chhathi Maata to protect their children and grant peace and happiness for the entire family. After worship, devotees break their 36-hour fast by taking sharbat, raw milk, and a little prasad
In some communities, it is believed that once you start performing Chhath Puja, it is compulsory to perform it every year. Only in case of death in the family, one may skip the festival that year. If the festival is discontinued for some other reason, it cannot be resumed.
The Chhath Puja 2021 Vidhi:
The devotees visit the riverbanks with the following ‘puja-saamagri’ (articles for performing the puja) and offering arghya to the Sun god:
1 large bamboo baskets and 3 supdis (winnows) made of bamboo or brass, milk and glass, rice, red vermilion, lamp, coconut, turmeric, sugarcane, vegetable and seasonal fruits sweet potato
Pear, big lemons, honey, paan, camphor, sandalwood and dessert. As prasad, take thekua, malpua, kheer-puri, semolina pudding, and rice laddoos among others
All the above-mentioned puja-saamagri is placed in a bamboo basket. The entire prasad is placed in the supdi (winnow). A diya is lighted in the supdi. Then devotees stand in knee-deep water with traditional supdi in their hands to offer an arghya to the sun.
Q. 1: Who is Chhathi Maata?
Ans: Chhathi Mata is believed to be the ‘manas-putri’ (daughter) of Lord Brahma and sister of the Sun god. She is one of the 9 forms of Maan Durga, known as Katyayani Maata.
Q. 2: What is the other name of Chhath Maata?
Ans: Shashti Maata, commonly called Usha.
Q. 3: How do people celebrate Chhath Puja?
Ans: People celebrate Chhath Puja by cleaning their homes and worshipping Chhathi Maata with satvik food. People observe a fast for 36 hours without any food or water. They offer ‘arghya’ to the sun both during sunset and sunrise and thank Sun god for all the gifts provided.
Q. 4: How many times is Chhath Puja celebrated?
Ans: Chhath Puja is celebrated twice a year. Once, a few days after Holi, on the krishna shashti in the month of Chaitra and the other a few days after Diwali, on the shukla shashti in the month of Kartik. However, the latter one is more important.
Q. 5: Why is Chhath Puja 2021 celebrated?
Ans: Chhath Puja is celebrated to offer gratitude to Sun god for bestowing us with so many gifts. People pray to Sun god and Chhathi Maata to fulfill all their wishes. People pray to Chhathi Maata to bless young children with health and long life. Couples, who do not have children, seek the blessings of Chhathi Mata, and she blesses them with children.