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Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
Posted By Sarin on Nov 15, 2015     RSS Feeds     Latest Hinduism news
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Literally, 'Chhath' means six in Bhojpuri and is celebrated for 4 days from Kartik Shukala chaturthi to Kartik Shukala Saptami according to the Hindu calendar.  
Considered as the most grandeur form of Sun worship, Chhath pooja is celebrated by natives of Mithila region (Eastern UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and Nepal). Chhath is the only Vedic festival dedicated to sun god and Chhathi Maiya (ancient Vedic Goddess Usha). In this festival, Sun god is honored for sustaining life on earth and ensuring all-round well-being, prosperity and progress of humanity.
  
Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
  
Since sunrays cures illness and various diseases, sun is worshipped for longevity, fulfillment of wishes, and prosperity of family members, relatives and beloved ones.
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Chhath puja ad by Bihar tourism

Why sun worship is called as Chhath puja?
Since lord Rama was a suryavanshi(Descendant of lord surya), Both lord Rama and goddess Sita observed fast and offered arghya to lord surya in month of kartik just before his coronation ceremony, which incidentally was on sixth day after returning to ayodhya from 14 years of exile. Since then, Worshipping sun became a traditional festival and is celebrated on sixth day after Diwali. Hence, the festival was named as “Chhath” and goddess Usha & Pratyusha were invoked as “Chhathi maiya”. Usha  and  Pratyusha, consorts of Sun, are the main source of Sun. Pratyusha(the last sun-ray of day) and Usha(first sun-ray of day) is worshipped in the evening and morning by offering water or milk to the setting and rising sun respectively.
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History of chhath puja

Origin of Chhath puja
The festival is observed since times immemorial with fervent faith that the Sun God fulfills all wishes if 'araghya' is offered with complete dedication and extreme purity.
Chhath puja in Vedas
During the Vedic era, Lord surya(Sun) was one of the main deities in the pantheon of gods. Chhath puja seems to have its succession and significance from the Vedic times since there are numerous verses dedicated to sun god in rig Veda.  
Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
Some of the verses on sun worship from rig veda are:-
1) HIS bright rays bear him up aloft, the God who knoweth all that  lives,
rya, that all may look on him.
2) The constellations pass away,  like thieves, together with their beams,
Before the all-beholding Sun.
3) His herald rays are seen afar refulgent o’er the world of men,
Like flames of  fire that burn and blaze.
4) Swift and all beautiful art thou, O Sûrya, maker  of the light,
Illuming all the radiant realm."
There are hundreds of more verses on sun worship from different texts which I will post in a separate article. Sun-Worship was also pre-dominant in Japanese, Egyptian and Greek cultures. Egyptian god Ra, Helios of the Greeks, or Shamash of the Sumerians are some of the names of solar deities in different civilizations.
  
Chhathi maiya  
According to Markandeya Purana, the origin of life began from a female cell, known as Prakriti (Nature). Cell divided herself into six parts and her sixth part was the form of mother who protected children from all ills. Therefore, this sixth form of the cell is worshipped as Chhathi Ma on the sixth day of the Kartik month.
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All stories of chhath puja

Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god

Danveer Karna (Mahabharata)
Since karna was the offspring of lord surya, he also followed the tradition of giving arghya to rising and setting sun daily. This increased the popularity of chhath puja multi-fold in regions of Bihar where he ruled for many years. Karna, the ruler of Anga Desh(present munger and Bhagalpur district), was a renowned warrior well known for his charity, courage, fame, health, wealth and prosperity.

Draupadi (Mahabharata)
During the period of exile, Draupadi and five pandavas were facing extreme hardships and troubles in their day to day life.  
On the advice of noble sage dhaumya, Draupadi followed the same set of rituals as observed in chhath puja. Because of her austerity and severe penance in following the rituals of sun worship, she not only solve her problems but also ended up building the new kingdom ‘indraprastha’. Due to her sincere devotion and worship of lord surya, she also got the power of curing many diseases like leprosy. Science has validated, that sunrays of rising sun and setting sun has the power to cure several diseases including leprosy.
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song on chhathi maiya by alka yagnik

Significance of Chhath puja
  •   Chhath puja is the only festival where no priest is involved and no temple is visited. All prayers and ritual is to be seldom performed by the devotee. It is the only festival where the sun is worshipped in both forms i.e sunset and sunrise.  
        Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
Just married woman offering prayer to the rising sun

  •   Worshiper need to follow all rituals with extreme purity and discipline. To maintain purity, Lady in command sleeps on the floor on a carpet or a single blanket. It is said that following such discipline is very important to ensure that the prayers for the well-being and prosperity of family is honored by the sun god.
•   Once a family starts performing the chhath puja, it cannot be stopped, it has to be passed to the following generations.  
    
  •   Arghya, prayers and Sweets/Fruits are offered by devotees to the setting and rising sun, which symbolizes the cycle of death and rebirth.  
•   Ritual of arghya is ideally performed on local water bodies, preferably on the banks of the river. Bihar has a number of sun temples with a sacred water pool where devotes gather in large number to celebrate chhath puja.
        Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
Devotee offering arghya in an artificial water pool
  
  •    River Ganga that flows from the Himalayas through the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar is the most preferred location of all devotees since Ganga is regarded as the mother of Indian civilization.  
     https://www.news18.com/news/bihar/3-muslim-women-among-bihar-jail-prisoners-observing-chhath-puja-630059.html


Benefits of chhath puja
According to Vedic philosophy, all living organisms have highly complicated energy conducting channels in their body. When the body is exposed to sun-rays, energy channels absorb solar radiations of specific wavelengths that are beneficial to the body. Due to the purity of the mind and body after performing the rituals of chhath puja, solar-conducting energy channel is in perfect condition to fully absorb the cosmic solar energy coming from the sun. By obtaining the energy directly from the sun like the plant does, Thousands of rishis were able to perform austerities and severe penance for unbelievable periods without any intake of food or liquid diet.

Flow of subtle energy into the body happens through the retina. Retina acts as a photoelectric material that absorbs cosmic solar energy and transfers it to the pineal gland via optic nerves. Pineal gland in association with pituitary and hypothalamus glands (together known as Triveni) utilizes this energy to give parivartin a sound health and calm mind.
  
Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
Women offering arghya to setting sun

Stages of Chhath (Conscious Photo-energization Process)

Cosmic Solar Energy Infusion process happening inside the body of parivartin can be defined in five stages.
Stage 1:
Religious observance of rituals, cleanliness and continuous fasting for 72 hours causes the purity of the mind which results in biochemical changes that induces detoxification of the body and mind. Detoxification of the body and mind facilitates the flow of prana and energy conducting channels to receive the cosmic energy directly from the sun.

Stage 2:  
Standing half inside the water body ensures that the absorbed cosmic energy stays within the body. In fact, the absorbed energy triggers prana(psychic energy) to flow through the sushumna nadi to activate chakras. Sun-rays has 7 different colors that correspond to seven energy centers (Chakras) of the body



Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
Stage 3: Cosmic energy absorbed by retina through the optic nerves activates Triveni glandular complex (pineal, pituitary and hypothalamus glands).

Stage 4: A process is activated within the body of parivartin which polarizes the spine and transforms the gross and subtle energies into a cosmic powerhouse. This awakens the kundalini shakti (psychic energy) which makes the body independent of energy needed from food or liquid diet.
  
Stage 5: Body of the parivartin behaves like a transmitter that absorbs energy from sun, recycles it and then transmit subtle energy to the surrounding environment. Family members and close relatives receive subtle energies from parivartin, thus resulting in the well-being and prosperity of whole family.
  
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Benefits from Conscious Photo-energization Process of chhath puja are
  
•   Absorbed cosmic solar energy being antiseptic in nature cures fungal and bacterial infections of the skin.
•   Cosmic sunrays from sun increases eye sight, enhance appearance of skin, improve digestion and slow down the ageing process.  
•   Regular absorption of solar energy cures all diseases related to deficiency of vitamin D since Vitamin D from sunrays is predominant at sun set and sun rise
•   Cosmic solar energy has a positive effect on the glands, resulting in balanced secretion of hormones.
•   It increases the immunity of the body as the absorbed cosmic energies kills the harmful toxins present in the body, thus making the body energetic.
•   Infused cosmic energies into the blood stream improve the performance of white blood cells.
•   No food or water needed by the body which helps in further detoxification of the body.
•   Flow of subtle and pranic energy calms and purifies the mind. Mind is free of negative feelings and emotions like anger, jealousy, sadness etc.
•   Daily meditation and sincere worship of sun with proper rituals awakens the psychic powers like intuition, healing, and telepathy.
    Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
    Mass congregation of devotees on banks of River Ganga
    

  
Rituals of chhath puja
After the grand-scale celebration of Diwali subsides, festivity of chhath puja takes it place. Chhath puja is the festival of penance and prayers. In the 4 day long festival, rigorous rituals like holy bathing, standing in water, fasting without water/food/fruits for 72 straight hours are observed. Fasting for continuous 36 hours is little easier for Indian woman compared to Nepalese woman where cold climate has a huge troll on them.
Day 1: Naha Kha (Bath, then eat)
Lady observing the vrat is called Pavraitin. On first day, Pavraitin cleans the entire house and surroundings religiously. Pavraitins take a dip in water, preferably of a nearby holy river and brings holy water back home to prepare offerings.  
Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
Devotees carry Ganga water for preparing 'prashad' in Patna(Image credit BCCL)

Food is cooked for family without onion and garlic. Meal is eaten by Pavraitin only once in a day and the meal should mandatorily contain dal having gourd and rice (Kaddu-bhat).
Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
Women preparing for Chhath Pooja in Patna(Image credit BCCL)

Day 2: Kharna/ Lohanda (Earth worship)

Bhoomi(Earth) is worshipped on this day and Prasad(offerings) consisting of kheer(rice pudding), Bananas and Puris are distributed to family members, relatives and neighbors. Since mother earth is worshipped on this day, offering is cooked on an earthen stove and in bronze or earthen utensils only.
Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
Pavraitin preparing offerings on earthen stove in bronze utensils(Image credit BCCL)

Starting from this day, Pavraitin observes a strict fast for next 72 hours. Even juice and water is not allowed while fasting for 72 hours. To maintain purity, Pavraitin separates herself from the family by sleeping on the floor.

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Day 3: Sandhya Arghya (evening offerings)
Pavraitins spends whole day in preparing prasad(Offerings) that would be first offered to sun god and then to family members, relatives and neighbors. Prasad includes kheer, thekua, puris, coconut, milk, wheat, banana and other seasonal fruits. While preparing offerings, strict purity is maintained. Pavraitins abstain from eating cooked food and not wears stitched clothes. All offerings are kept on semicircular pan made of bamboo strip called as soop.
  
Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
Offerings in soop of Bihari community in California, USA

In evening, accompanied by chorus renditions of traditional devotional songs, whole family, relatives and participants follow the Pavraitin to the nearby water body to offer Sanjhiya arghya to the setting sun.
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  Eldest member of the family carries the basket of bamboo weaves to the water body. Basket should be kept as high as possible so that no impure hands touch the holy offerings. On the way to river banks, many devotees can be seen rolling on the roads, instead of walking on foot as they believe “More the hardship, more pleased the sun god is”.
Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
Devotees rolling on the road while one of them cleans the road

  On the river bank, earthen lamps are kept under the cover of five sugarcane sticks. Five sugarcane sticks symbolizes the human body to be made of panchtattva(Earth, water, fire, air and ether or sky). Lit earthen lamps symbolizes the solar energy sustaining the entire universe.
Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
Glittering diyas of chhath devotees in the northern city of Chandigarh

As soon as the Westside of the sky turns rosy, countless arms of devotees stretches out to offer arghya to the setting sun. Women take a dip into the water several times and rotate herself to worship all four directions of the sky.  

Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
Devotee at India gate,Delhi offering prayers to sun god

Day 4: Parna or Usha Arghya (morning offerings)
Next day, when the sky is still black as festival falls on the day of Amavasya, again all family members, relatives and participants travel to nearby water body, but this time to offer Bihaniya arghya to the rising sun. Supporting women’s never stop chanting the local chhath songs or ancient Vedic verses dedicated to sun god and goddess usha. Singers and musicians entertains the crowd gathered on the river bank with folk/devotional songs. Once the first ray of the sun appears on the horizon, all devotees plummet into the water to offer arghya to the generous sun god.  
  
Women spread vermillon from top of the forehead to down till the nose, a symbolic gesture that she is married and is praying to seek blessings for the long life and prosperity of the family members.  
Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
Devotee offering praying to the rising sun in Kathmandu, Nepal

Through folk songs and chanting of verses, Chhathi Maiya is invoked to bless with divine consciousness that will help in overcoming all troubles and evils of the society. This ends the four day long festival after which the Pavraitins break their 72 hours long fast by drinking tea or water.  Many volunteers on river-bank steps into distribute tea/milk/food to break the fast of the Pavraitins after 72 hours. All gathered devotees offered0  their homage to the sun god for his kindness, blessings and fulfillment of worldly desires. Prasad is distributed among all gathered family members, friends, relatives and those who visit the home. Chhath puja has such a rich significance that even richest of the rich visit home to seek the blessings of the Parivartin.1
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Significance of emphasis on sunrise and Sunset periods
Majority of humans have the gifted ability to absorb solar energy directly from the sun only during sunrise and sunset. This is why, in Chhath puja, arghya is offered to only rising sun (Bihaniya Arghya) in morning and setting sun (Sanjhiya Arghya) in evening. During the one hour window after sunrise and before sunset, ultraviolet radiations from the sun is at the minimum and hence, is considered as the best time to worship sun and perform meditation.  
Chhath Puja - World oldest festival dedicated to sun god
  
Celebrations across the world
The exact date of chhath festival is decided by Central division of Janakpurdham in Mithila Region of Nepal and the same is followed by devotees worldwide. Chhath festival has become an identity icon for Biharis living not only in Bihar, but also in other states of India and abroad. Even in far-away countries like Fiji, Guyana, Suriname and Mauritius where Biharis migrated in large number in late 19th century, chhath is celebrated with much gusto and enthusiasm. Migration of Biharis to all other states has globalize this oldest Vedic festival and today, chhath is celebrated on a grand scale in all urban regions of India. Unlike Mumbai and Delhi where Biharis are poor laborers, Biharis in south are educated professionals and businessman who participate in grandiose celebrations of chhath puja. Due to intense celebrations, Chhath festival was declared as a national holiday in Delhi last year.  

Below is the great documentation by sulabh intenerational on chhath puja
<https://www.sulabhinternational.org/sulabh-old/admin/config/media/file-system/Chhath%20Puja.pdf>

Summary
Beliefs and rituals of the Chhath make it the most significant festival in the Hinduism. Somehow, this oldest Vedic festival still has highest regard among the devotees in Bihar, UP and all across the globe. Chhath Puja is not just a festival, it’s a carnival of happiness and love blended with devotion and holiness that brings families, relatives and friends together. In the coming times as the citizens are becoming increasingly aware, the popularity of the chhath puja is going to increase beyond imagination. May Almighty illuminate our intellect and inspire us towards righteous path.



  
  
  





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