Chhath Puja 2021-22: Date, Timing And Vrat Katha
Chhath Puja in 2021
Chhath Parva or Chhath Puja is a folk festival of India celebrated on the Shashthi Tithi of Kartik Shukla Paksha. Chhath Puja is also known as Surya Shashthi. This festival is celebrated six days after Diwali. Chhath Puja is predominantly and grandly celebrated in the North Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Eastern Uttar Pradesh. On this day, Sun God and Chhathi Maiyya are worshipped. The main ritual of this festival involves offering Arghya (water) to Sun God and Chhathi Maiyya. Since the past few years, Chhath Puja has gained significant importance among the folk festivals of India, and due to this reason, it has emerged as one of the most popular and widely celebrated festivals of not just Bihar and Jharkhand but also other regions of India.
In Bihar, the grandeur and spirit of Chhath Puja are all-pervasive and spectacularly matchless. Basically, Chhath Puja is dedicated to the worship of the Sun. As per the mythological beliefs, Chhath is considered the sister of Sun. It is believed that worshipping Sun God on Chhath Parva pleases Chhath Mai (Chhath Maiyya), and she grants boon such as wealth and prosperity, peace and harmony to everyone who worships Sun God with full devotion.
History of Chhath Puja?
The biggest and most important festival of Hindus, Diwali, is like an exquisite string of festivals. This beautiful festival does not end on Bhai Dooj but continues till Chhath. Chiefly celebrated in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the Chhath Parva is an important festival of North India, now enthusiastically celebrated across the country. Chhath is not just a one-day festival, but a grand celebration during which festivities continue for four days. It starts with Nahay-Khay on day-1 and culminates with the offering of Arghya to the rising Sun on the fourth day, the festival of Chhath holds unique mythological significance in Hinduism.
Mythological significance of Chhath/Legend of Chhath
During Chhath Parva, Goddess Chhathi is worshipped, whose legends find a mention in Brahmavaivarta Purana. As per the legends, the son of first Manu Swayambhuva, King Priyavrata, had no children of his own, and this made him utterly unhappy and desolate. Sage Kashyapa suggested the King should perform a Yajna to be blessed with a son. The King performed the Yajna as per the command of the sage. As a result of the boon received, Queen Malini gave birth to a boy, but unfortunately, the baby was stillborn. This misfortune made the King, the Queen, and the entire clan even more miserable.
As they were mourning the loss, a plane descended from the sky carrying Goddess Shashthi. When the King reverently bowed his head in front of the Goddess, she said - I am Goddess Shashthi, the adopted daughter of Lord Brahma. I am the protector of children and bless all those childless couples with their own child who worship me with full devotion. Then she put her hand on the dead child, and with her divine touch, the baby was alive again. King could not contain his happiness to see his dead son alive and worshipped Goddess Shashthi devotedly. Henceforth, people started worshipping Goddess Shashthi to get her blessings.
The Scientific significance of Chhath Parva
There are deep scientific insights hidden behind the significance of Chhath Parva. Actually, Shashthi Tithi is a special astronomical event. On this day, Sun’s ultraviolet rays hit the surface of the Earth with more intensity and frequency. The rituals followed on Shashthi Tithi have immense powers to protect the life on Earth with potential ill-effects of accumulated ultraviolet rays. Observance of Chhath Parva protects living beings from the harmful effects of Sun’s (star) ultraviolet rays.
Observance of Chhath began in Mahabharata Era
As per the beliefs, the observance of Chhath began in the Era of Mahabharata. It was Karna, the son of Sun God, who initiated the Chhath ritual by worshipping Sun on this day. Karna was an ardent devotee of Sun, and he would stand in waist-deep water for hours every day and offer Arghya to Sun. With the blessings of Sun, Karna became a mighty and formidable warrior. Even in this age, the ritual of offering Arghya (Arghya-Daan) on Chhath is observed with full devotion.
Draupadi observed Chhath Vrat
There is one more legend associated with Chhath Parva. According to this legend, Draupadi observed Chhath Vrat when Pandavas lost their kingdom in the game of dice. With the power of this Vrat, Draupadi’s wish was granted, and Pandavas regained their lost kingdom. According to folk tales, Sun God and Goddess Chhathi are brother and sister. Therefore, worshipping Sun on Chhath is considered highly propitious.
Observance of Chhath as a penance of killing Ravana
There is a Chhath legend associated with Lord Rama and Goddess Sita. As per the mythological legend, when Lord Rama and Goddess Sita returned to Ayodhya after their 14-year exile, on the command of sages and saints, they decided to perform Rajsurya Yajna as an act of atonement of the sin of killing Ravana. To perform the Yajna rituals, they invited Rishi Mudgal. Rishi Mudgal sprinkled some holy water from the river Ganges on Goddess Sita and suggested that she should worship Sun on the Shashthi Tithi of Kartik Shukla Paksha. Goddess Sita worshipped Sun for six days while staying at the Ashrama of sage Mudgal.
When is Chhath Parva celebrated?
The festival of Chhath, which is dedicated to the worship of Sun God, is celebrated twice a year, on Chaitra Shukla Shashthi and Kartik Shukla Shashthi. However, the festival celebrated on the Kartik Shukla Shashthi is more important and main Chhath Parva. Kartik Chhath Puja holds high religious and mythological significance. This four-day-long festival is also known as Chhath Puja, Dala Chhath, Chhathi Mai, Chhath, Chhath Mai Puja, Surya Shashthi Puja, etc.
Why Chhath Puja is observed?
There are various reasons for performing Chhath Puja and observing the Vrat, but Chhath Puja is chiefly performed to worship Sun and to seek his blessings. With the blessings of Sun, a person remains in good health throughout the year. Sun also bestows material comfort and prosperity on his devotees. Childless couples seek Sun’s blessings to conceive. Chhath Vrat is also observed to be blessed with a virtuous child (See the link below to read more about this). This Vrat is observed for the fulfillment of all the worldly as well as the non-worldly desires.
Who is Goddess Shashthi, and how she originated?
Goddess Chhath is considered to be the sister of Sun God. But according to Chhath Vrat legend, Goddess Chhath is shown as Devsena, the daughter of Supreme God. According to Devsena herself, she originated from the sixth part of the primal nature, Prakriti, the feminine manifestation of divine power, and this is the reason she is called Shashthi. Goddess says anyone who wants to be blessed with a virtuous child should observe my Vrat and worship me ritualistically on the day of Kartik Shukla Shashthi.
In religious scripture, the legend of Chhath Vrat is also associated with Lord Rama and Goddess Sita. After returning to Ayodhya from their 14-year exile, Lord Rama and Goddess Sita observed Shashthi Vrat and worshipped Sun God on Kartik Shukla Shashthi. According to another legend, during Mahabharata Era, Kunti worshipped Sun God before marriage and was blessed with a mighty and formidable son, Karna.
Karna, who was born to an unmarried mother Kunti with the blessings of Sun God, and was abandoned in the river by his own mother, was himself an ardent devotee of Sun. He would worship Sun for hours while standing inside the water. It is believed that Sun blessed Karna with great powers and benedictions. Hence, people worship Sun on Kartik Shukla Shashthi to seek his blessings and grace.
Chhath Parva continues till four days
Goddess Chhath is the sister of Sun God. The festival of Chhath is dedicated to the worship of Sun. To propitiate Goddess Chhath (Chhath Maiyya), Sun is worshipped on Shashthi Tithi. People meditate upon Goddess Chhath (Chhath Maiyya) and worship Sun on the banks of holy rivers Ganges and Yamuna or any water body nearby their place. The main and most important ritual of Chhath Puja is performing Sun’s Puja, offering the Arghya and taking a holy bath in some water body, like a river, pond, or lake. On the first day of this 4-day long festival, the house is cleaned and dusted extensively. Rural India follows this tradition religiously and performs a comprehensive cleaning of their houses.
During the four days of the festivities, only vegetarian food is consumed. On the second day, the rituals of Kharna are observed. On the third day, the setting Sun is worshipped, and Sandhya Arghya is given to the Sun. On the fourth day of the festival, Usha Arghya is offered to the rising Sun. Observing Vrat on Chhath is considered highly propitious. Those who observe Chhath Vrat with full devotion and rituals become worthy of Sun’s grace and are bestowed with wealth and happiness. Worshipping Sun on Chhath blesses childless couples with a virtuous child.
The first day of Chhath Puja, Nahay Khay - Although Chhath Puja is observed on Kartik Shukla Shashthi, the festivities begin on Kartik Shukla Chaturthi with the observance of Nahay Khay. According to the belief, Vrattis (those who observe the Chhath Vrat) take a holy bath in a water body, especially in a river, wear new clothes and partake in vegetarian food as Prasad. As per the customs, the Vratti eats first, and then other members of the family take their food.
The second day of Chhath Puja, Kharna - On the day of Kartik Shukla Panchami, the Vratti observe a whole-day Vrat (fast) and takes their meal after performing the Puja in the evening. The observance of the second day is known as Kharna. On this day, the Vratti abstains from eating and drinking even a single drop of water the whole day. In the evening, Kheer is prepared with rice and jaggery. Salt and sugar are not used in Kheer preparation. Rice Pittha and Roti, greased with Ghee, are also served as Prasad in the evening.
The third day of Chhath Puja, Sandhya Arghya - On the third day of Chhath festivities, which is Kartik Shukla Shashthi, Sandhya Arghya is given to Sun during the Sandhya Kaal. In the evening, seasonal fruits are placed in a bamboo basket, and the winnowing basket of Arghya is decorated with Thekua, rice Laddu, and other items. After making all these arrangements, the Vratti, along with their family, step inside the water and offer Arghya to the Sun. While giving the Arghya, water, and milk is offered to Sun, and Chhathi Maiyya is worshipped by offering the contents of the winnowing basket (Sup). After worshipping the setting sun in the evening, folk songs dedicated to Goddess Chhathi are sung later in the night, and Vrat Katha is narrated.
The fourth day of Chhath, Usha Arghya - On the last day of Chhath Parva, Usha Arghya is given to Sun God. On this day, devotees reach the riverbank before Sunrise and offer Arghya to the rising Sun. Then, Vrattis pray to Goddess Chhath for the long and prosperous life of their children and the peace and prosperity of their whole family. After worshipping and offering the Arghya to Sun, Vrattis break their fast by drinking a concoction of raw milk and taking a little Prasad. The breaking of the fast is called Vrat Parana.
Chhath Puja Vidhi/Rituals
1. Collect the following items before Chhath Puja and then offer Arghya to Sun God by following all the important rituals.
2. Three large bamboo baskets, three winnowing baskets (Sup) either in bamboo or brass, a plate (Thali), milk, and glass.
3. Rice, vermilion, lamp (Deepak), coconut, turmeric, sugarcane, lesser yam, vegetables, and sweet potato.
4. Pears, a large lemon, honey, a betel leaf, an unbroken betel nut, Keraw (small green peas), camphor, sandalwood, and sweets.
5.For Prasad (food offering), take these items -Thekua, Malpua, Kheer-Puri, Suji Halwa, and rice Laddu.
6. Wake up before Sunrise on the day of Chhath.
7. One should take a holy bath in some nearby lake, pond, or river.
8. After the holy bath, while standing inside the water, pray to the rising Sun and perform ritualistic worship.
9. Light a Diya using pure Ghee, and offer Dhup and flowers to the Sun.
10. Mix seven kind of flowers, rice, sandalwood, and sesame in water and offer Arghya to Sun on Chhath.
11. Bow your head reverently and pray to Sun God and chant one of the following Mantras 108 times - ‘Om Ghrini Suryaya Namah,’ ‘Om Ghrini Suryah Adityah’, ‘Om Hreem Hreem Suryaya’, ‘Sahastrakiranaya Manovanchhit Phalam Dehi Dehi Swaha’, or ‘Om Suryaya Namah’.
12. The right method to offer Arghya - Place the aforementioned items in a bamboo basket. While offering the Arghya, place Prasad items in a winnowing basket along with a lit Diya. Then step inside the river and make the offering of Arghya to Sun God.
13. Donate food items to Brahmins and the poor as per your ability.
14. Donate clothes, food, food grain, etc., to the poor.
Some basic information regarding Chhath Puja
The folk festival of Chhath, also known as Surya Shashthi, is celebrated across the world by the diaspora of people who migrated from Bihar, Jharkhand, and eastern Uttar Pradesh. Despite the increasing popularity of the festival, a large section of Indian people is still not familiar with the most basic information related to the Chhath Puja. Furthermore, many questions regarding this festival arise in the mind of those people who celebrate this festival every year.
1. Which deities are worshipped on Chhath or Surya Shashthi Vrat?
On Chhath or Surya Shashthi Vrat, Sun is worshipped as a prime deity, who is the direct manifestation of divine power and the prime source of life on Earth. Along with Sun, Goddess Shashthi, also known as Chhath Maiyya, is also worshipped. As per the mythological beliefs, Goddess Shashthi blesses children with good health (See the link below to read more about this) and long life and protect them from all adversities. On this day, the Arghya is also given to the wives of Sun God, Usha, and Pratyusha. During Chhath Vrat, Sun and Goddess Shashthi are worshipped together, and due to this reason, Chhath Parva is one of the most unique and popular festivals in India.
2. Sun is an important Hindu deity, but who is Goddess Chhath?
A manifestation of Prakriti as its integral part, the primal feminine power, which governs the very nature of life on Earth, is described in religious scripture as Devsena. Because she is the sixth part of Prakriti, Devsena came to be known as Goddess Shashthi. She is also known as the adopted daughter of Lord Brahma. In Purana, she is also identified with the name Katyayani. During Navaratri, she is worshipped on the sixth day or Shashthi Tithi. On the regional level, Shashthi Tithi is known as Chhath Maiyya, who blesses childless couples with a child and protect all children in the world.
3. Where do you find the mention of Sun-worship in our religious scripture?
In our religious scripture, Sun is considered a Guru, a teacher. Sun was also the Guru of Lord Hanuman. Lord Rama chanted ‘Adityahridayastotram’ to seek the blessings of the Sun before aiming the last arrow on Ravana and triumphing over the evil forces. When Lord Krishna’s son Samba was afflicted with leprosy, then he worshipped Sun God and got rid of the disease (See the link below to read more about this). Sun has been a primal deity being worshipped since the ages prior to the Vedic period.
4. What is the place of Sun among other deities of Sanatana Dharma?
Sun is placed among those five prime deities, who are first-worshipped during any religious ceremony or event. As per Matsya Purana, these deities are collectively called Panchadeva - Sun God, Lord Ganesha, Goddess Durga, Lord Shiva, and Lord Vishnu.
5. What are the benefits of worshipping the Sun God, and what does Puranas opine on this matter?
Sun God is a benevolent and compassionate deity. He bestows all of his worshipers with long life, good health, wealth and prosperity, progeny, glory, fame, fortune, and success. Above all, he is the ultimate source of light on Earth and enlightens people to conquer darkness. Those who worship Sun with full devotion get rid of all mental and physical afflictions. Those who worship him never face penury, misery, sorrow, and blindness in life. Sun is considered as the glory of Lord Brahma. Sun blesses his devotees with Purushartha, that is, Dharma (Righteousness), Artha (Prosperity), Kama (Pleasure), and Moksha (Liberation), and is the protector of the entire universe.
6. Why do people gather at river banks or around lake and ponds during Chhath Puja?
The most important ritual of Sun worship on Chhath Puja is the offering of Arghya. Taking holy bath in rivers such as the Ganges and offering Arghya to Sun God while standing inside the water is considered very auspicious. However, this Puja can also be done at any clean place.
7. A large crowd gather around water bodies on Chhath. What measures can one take to comfortably perform the Puja?
Because a lot of people don’t prefer performing Chhath Puja at crowded river banks, the practice of performing the Puja at home is fast gaining popularity. Many people observe Chhath Vrat and offer Arghya from their courtyard or terrace. People adapt rituals with changing times and their convenience.
8. Why do mostly women observe Chhath Vrat?
It is highly usual for women natives to take extreme pains to perform various rituals and prayers for ensuring the safety and wellbeing of their family. It is associated with the sacrificial nature of women in general. Thus, most women keep this fast. However, Chhath Vrat can be performed by both men and women. Childless women observe this Vrat to be blessed with a virtuous child. Mothers observe this fast for the longevity and good health of their children.
9. Can this Puja be performed by a person of any social status or caste?
Sun does not discriminate with his subjects, and he provides his light and energy uniformly and equally upon us. There is no restriction based on Varna or caste; people from all caste and Varna can perform this Puja. People coming from all sections of society perform Chhath Puja with full devotion. Everyone participates in rituals with the spirit of togetherness and brotherhood. Those who have faith in the Sun, whatever religion or caste they come from can perform Chhath Puja.
10. Does Chhath Puja give any social message?
During Surya Shashthi Vrat, people worship the setting Sun with the same devotion as they worship the rising Sun. This provides many significant clues and insights about this unique festival. It showcases the spiritual supremacy of India in the world. This festival doesn’t discriminate on the basis of caste and treats all people equally. The bamboo baskets, which are used to offer Prasad to Sun, are made by underprivileged people of our society. All these points made the social significance of Chhath quite evident.
11. Why is there a special association of Bihar with Chhath Puja?
The unique tradition of worshipping the Sun along with Goddess Shashthi, is seen during this folk festival. Due to this very reason, Chhath Parva is closely associated with Bihar. In Bihar, the tradition of Sun worship is prevalent for ages. One can find the mention of Bihar’s many famous Surya temples in Surya Purana. Also, Bihar is the birthplace of Karna, the son of Sun. This all leads up to a special devotion for Sun in the hearts of the Bihari people.
12. What is the significance of Bihar’s Deo Surya Mandir?
The most important factor that makes this temple unique is that the main entrance of this temple opens in the west direction, while generally, Sun temples open in the east direction. It is believed that this unique Surya temple was built by the architect of God, Vishvakarma. This Surya temple is a sublime example of Hindu architecture.
13. Apart from the Kartik month, when is Chhath Puja observed in a year?
Apart from Kartik month, Chhath Vrat is also observed from Chaturthi to Saptami Tithi of Chaitra Shukla Paksha. Colloquially, this Chhath is called ‘Chaiti Chhath’.
14. During Chhath Puja, why some devotees take pains such as prostrating and reaching the river banks by rolling over the ground?
Colloquially, this practice is called ‘Kashti Dena’, which translates as ‘to take pains’. In most of cases, only those who have taken an oath or vow for various reasons perform this practice as a sign of devotion.
You can read similar write-up on relevance of astrology in indian festivals for all other major Indian Festivals.