A Festival to Thank the Sun
Chhath Puja is a popular ‘Sun Worship’ festival in and around Bihar. It is a festival to thank the Sun for the life and warmth it has bestowed on us. The antiquity of the festival can be traced to the Mahabharata period.
Bharat is the indigenous name of this country.
Bha which means light or the act of being enlightened. For example, the name Bhaskara denotes the Sun.
Ratha means “one who is a connoisseur”, “one who relishes”.
Bharath thus means “ to relish light”, “to relish enlightenment”and “to relish knowledge”.
Bharat also denoted that land that enjoyed good sunlight (Bha). Even though there are many lands along the equator, India has the advantages.
- Of being a fairly big mass of land as against many of the islands along the equator
- of receiving seasonal and copious monsoons, as against brief daily rains like equatorial regions
- of enjoying right amount of sunshine, Bha, neither too hot for long nor too cold for long and just ideal for most of the year.
And India had learnt how to relish and harness the energy that the Sun poured upon her.
All of which, made India an agriculturally rich land and therefore a prosperous civilization.
Thus, the name Bharat stood for a land famed for its knowledge (Bha) and rich due to its agriculture enriched by the Sun (Bha).
More on this in our book, Breaking The Myths – Vol-1 – About Identity.
Sauram – Religion dedicated to the Sun
There were Shad Madhams, 6 religions in India, before Hinduism in its present form took shape. Off these 6 religions, Sauram was dedicated to the Sun.
The 6 religions include,
- Shaivam (Shiva worship)
- Shaktam (Worship of Shakti)
- Vaishnavam (worship of Vishnu)
- Sauram (Sun worship)
- Ganapathyam (worship of Ganapathy)
- Kaumaram (Worship of Kartikeya)
Specials Days and Festivals of Sun
Of the 7 days in a week, Sunday, known as Ravivar is dedicated to the Sun.
Surya Jayanthi is festival that is celebrated every year commemorating the birthday of Sun.
Then there are the monthly Sankranthi days, which are each festivals of Sun, of which Makara Sankranthi stands out.
The word “Chhath” comes from the Samskrt word “Shashti”, meaning “six”, for this festival is observed on the 6th day of the ascending phase of the moon, Shukla Paksha of the Karthika month.
4 day festival
Chhath Puja is celebrated for 4 days, with different rituals observed every day.
The first day of Chhath puja is known as Nahay Khay. This day represents discipline. Nahay means bath and Khay means to eat. On this day, the devotees have a bath in rivers and other water bodies. They then take this water home and use it to prepare meal, Kaddu Bhat. The meal consists of rice, dal, chana, dal and lauki. The devotees take food only once during the day, and the rest of the day they observe fast.
Lohanda and Kharna
The second day of the festival is known as Lohanda and Kharna. Kharna means “noble action, to clean to purify”. This day represents purity. On this day, devotees observe Nirjala vrata as they forgo even water. The fast is broken after sunset, after offering meal consisting of kheer and to Surya Deva. This Prasad is then distributed among people.
The third day is known as Chhath, and forms the main day of the four day festival. Chhath means 6th referring to the 6th day of the month of Karthika. This day represents Bhakti, devotion. On this day, people worship the Sun god, Surya Deva, by offering Surya Namaskar. They have a dip in waters in the evenings, and sing bhajans to Surya Deva at dusk time, while offering sweets and fruits to Sun God. This day is also known as Sandhya Arghya, Arghaya meaning offerings, during dusk. The fast is observed through the night and is broken on the fourth and final day.
The last day of the festival is called Usha Arghya. The day represents surrender. Early in the morning, Surya Deva is worshipped, and prayers are offered to the rising sun, along with sweets and fruits. This offering is known as Usha Arghya, Usha meaning dawn and Argya, offering. The fast is broken after this offering.
Karna observed Chhath Puja
The tragic hero of Mahabharata, Karna who is Surya Putra, worshipped the Divinity Sun on this day. His kingdom in the Mahabharata period is in the region of Bhagalpur, Bihar. The Biharis have a close affinity to this festival.
Draupadi observed Chhath Puja
Draupadi, the queen of the Pandavas is also recorded to have observed this Sun worship.
Observed in North India
Since then for over 5100 years, this festival has had resonance in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Nepal and adjoining parts.
In the sequence of the Kaumudi festival of Deepavali period, the Chhath festival has its role of importance as other regional festivals.
– Dr. D.K. Hari & Dr. D.K. Hema Hari