One of the ancient and only Vedic festival alive which is dedicated a supreme power which appears live everyday in front of our eyes- A festival dedicated to the sun.
This festival dates back to not only Vedic era but also to the the time of Mahabharata (around 3000 BC). In Vedic texts, there are hymns, chants and mantras which praise the power of the sun as a living god (same as Roman Empire). While in Mahabharata, there are two famous instances where worshipping of the sun can be referenced from. It was believed that Karna, a warrior of Mahabharata, was the son of the sun and he worshipped the almighty everyday. On the other hand, there is another instance where Draupadi, a queen worshipped the sun to regain her lost kingdom and solve her problems.
It is believed that the Shakya-dwipi brahmins, priests who were avid worshippers of the sun and lived on Shakya island, somewhere around modern Iran these days, brought this festival to India when they were invited by a king here.
Usha and Pratyusha:
Usha (the sun rays at the dawn) and Pratyusha (the sun rays at the dusk) are believed to be two wives of the sun. In terms of the chhath festival, they are also referred to as the “chhati maiya” (Mother for chhath).
Along with the sun these wives of the sun are also worshipped by paying arghya (offering in milk or water) to them. There are some folk-songs too which praise the greatness of the lord and her wives.
Paying Arghya with Ganges holy water and bowl beneath the winnow to catch the holy water from falling on the ground
Chhath is regarded as one of the toughest fasting and long-lasting festivals in India. Where the devotees are on continuous fasting for more than 36 hours and fasting on without water for more than 12 hours. However, the hard and deep faith in the individual’ spirituality makes it possible for almost everyone.
This festival proves that the sun could be used as external intake of energy even without using water. It does not only increases the reverse-immunity of a person through hardship and abstinence but also, it inculcates faith, peace, self-belief, purity and hardship in one. Paying arghya to the setting and the rising sun defines the cycle of life that a fresh birth starts after the death.
Abstinence has always played a primary role in attending self-realization and feeling spirituality. Abstinence can be linked with holy men in India going to Himalayas for practising penance. However, in ancient India, women could not get much chance to practice abstinence and this was the festival which had no priest as middle man and also which did not demand any particular requirements. Thus, those who wanted to feel the spirituality and do some self-actualization, this festival was the perfect platform.
It also demands from the female devotee to put Sindoor (vermilion) along her fingers inside which represents the marital life of the devotee
Abstinence for self-realization and spirituality:
This festival focuses more on abstinence. The devotee segregates itself from rest of the family for four days living in a separate room. Cosy bedding, delicious food, having any kind of alluring or negative thoughts in mind, wearing much comfortable clothings are forbidden. So most of the times, practising hardship acts as a medium for self-actualization where the devotee wear lesser clothings, eat only on basic food, sleep in floor and uses a blanket.
Day zero (Pre arrangement):
This festival needs a lot of fruits and can be afforded by everyone since it does not involve priest and any particular necessities. During festive seasons, there are dedicated local shops which offer the things needed for the festival.
A local village shop selling items for the Chhath festival
Day one: Nahay khay (holy dip and then eat)
it marks the beginning of the festival and with this it also marks the beginning of practicing abstinence. Devotee goes to a near by river or water source and take a holy dip. A mango’s soft branch is used to clean the teeth. No soap or shampoo or chemicals are allowed. The devotee has to clean its room and the whole house and they are allowed to have only one time food through out the day. The food also needs to be prepared with purity and no modern alternation is allowed.
Day two: Lohra and kharna
And the practice gets harder. The time for meal is fixed today. Devotee can not take meal any time during the day. The meal has to be taken only after the sunset. But before the devotee could take the meal, he/she has to prepare Kheer and puri for the relatives, family member and acquaintances.
Chhath Kheer in jaggery
Preparing kheer for many people alone by the devotee is a bigger task. The reason being the preparation demands purity and piousness and no other member of the family can touch the utensils or even enter the devotee room except her/him.
The kheer can not be prepared in daily-use utensils, they require either new utensils or the copper ones. More over, they are supposed to be made in cow’s product like ghee and milk. They are again cooked over clay-oven using mango fire-woods.
On the same day, the devotee also prepares Thekua, a famous dish from this festival.
Offering to the god being prepared in Ghee on clay-oven using mango fire-wood while devotee uses single clothing to cover him/her self