After Diwali, there is bigger day for North Indians on
Chhath. Yes, Chhath Pooja is four-day festival observer elaborately in Bihar
and Jharkhand on the sixth day of the lunar month after Deepavali every year.
It is also called Surya Shashti. Today, it is celebrated in
all the areas where the migrants from Bihar and Jharkhand have a presence.
Chhath or Chhath Pooja is a way to be grateful to the Sun
for giving the bounties of life on earth and for the fulfilment of
wishes of believers. Sun worship is believed to help cure a number of diseases
and ensures longevity and prosperity of family members, friends, and elders.
The four days of Chhath Puja are:
Day 1, Nahay Khay: On the first day of Chhath Puja, devotees
take a dip, preferably in the river Ganga and carry home the holy water to
prepare the offerings to be made to Surya. The women of the house observe vrata
or fast — they are called vratin — allowing themselves only one meal on this
Day 2, Kharna: On Panchami, the day before Chhath, the
vratins observe a fast for the whole day, which ends in the evening, a little
after sunset. Just after the worship of the Sun, the offerings of rasiao-kheer,
puris and bananas, are distributed among family and friends. The
next 36 hours, the vratins go on a fast without water.
Day 3, Sanjhiya Arghya: The day is spent preparing the
prasad or offerings, at home. On the eve of this day, the entire household
accompanies the vratins to a riverbank or a common large water body to
make the arghya, also called offerings to the setting sun.
It is during this phase of Chhath Puja that the devotees
offer prayers to the setting sun. The occasion is almost a carnival. The
folksongs sung on the evening of Chhath reflect the culture, social structure,
mythology and history of Bihar and Jharkhand. The three main linguistic regions
of Bihar — the Maithili, Magadhi, and the Bhojpuri — and all the various
dialects associated with these, have different folksongs, but have an underlying
unity in their dedication to Chhath.
Day 4, Bihaniya Arghya: On the final day of Chhath, people go
to the riverbank before sunrise, in order to make offerings to the rising sun.
The festival ends with the breaking of the fast by the vratins. Friends visit
the homes of the vratins to receive the prasad. Partaking of the prasad is so
important that even a millionaire will beg for it at the Chhath ghat. This
symbolises that everybody is a beggar in front of the Almighty.
(Courtesy: Gyan Rajhans)