Chhath Puja is an ancient Hindu festival that venerates the Sun God, Surya and is primarily celebrated in the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh, as well as in Nepal. This significant festival spans four days, typically occurring six days after Diwali. Devotees, known as Vratis, meticulously follow rituals that involve rigorous fasting, taking dips in holy rivers, and offering arghya (offerings) to the setting and rising sun. Chhath Puja is marked by a deep spiritual fervour, as devotees express their gratitude to the Sun God for sustaining life on Earth. The rituals are often performed on riverbanks or other water bodies, symbolizing purity and the divine connection between humanity and nature.
Along with the Sun, the Goddess who is worshipped during this Chhath Puja is known as Chhathi Maiya. Chhathi Maiya is also known as Usha in the Vedas and she is believed to be the beloved younger wife of Surya, the sun god. In the Mithilanchal region, she is also worshipped under the name of “RANA MAI”.
The most unique feature of this Chhath Puja is that there is no Murti Pujan or Idol Worshipping unlike most of the festivals of the Hindu religion. Some people simply opine that the Sun is necessary for the life of possibly every creature on the earth and this festival is a way to pay tribute to it irrespective of caste, creed, gender, race, and social stigmas.
One of the well-known facts of Chhath puja is that the undertaker of austerities should wear a single piece of cloth that is not sewn. This means that essentially the wet clothes (post the argh) may reveal the contours of the body but any malefic or lustful view or intention from any observer would result in the affection of leprosy. Therefore, one should practice purity from the heart. It is often narrated by my grandmothers that even during the reign of Muslim rulers, no one dared to commit any act of lewdness during Chhath. There is no shame in requesting the Prasad of Chhath from anyone and the Prasad of the Chhath should never be disregarded.
In the present time, Chhath is celebrated mostly in India and Nepal. The states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh in India and the Madhesh region of Nepal generally celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm. This festival is dedicated to the Sun and his younger wife Usha as an acknowledgment of life on Earth. Some Muslim people also celebrate Chhath. As there is no idol worship there is no use of plastic, colour, metals, etc. in constructing an idol & later immersing those idols in nearby water bodies that leads to pollution. That’s why this festival is regarded as the most eco-friendly Hindu festival by environmentalists.
Chhath Puja is not only a religious event but also a cultural extravaganza, with families coming together, sharing traditional foods, and participating in various festive activities. The festival holds immense cultural and social significance, promoting unity, discipline, and a profound connection with the elements of nature.