The festival of Diwali has just ended and it is now time for another important Indian festival, that is Chhath Puja. This four day long festival is primarily celebrated in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. Keeping a Nirjala fast, praying to Sun Lord and taking a dip in holy waters are some of the key highlights of this grand festival.
The festival of Chhath is primarily dedicated to Sun God. According to the Hindu scriptures, Surya Devta is not only the primary source of energy but also a great healer. Devotees pray to the Sun Lord and seek his blessings for their well-being, prosperity, longevity and progress.
What is Nahay Khay?
The Chhath puja vrat festivities begin with Nahay Khay. Those who keep a fast take bath early in the morning, while several people take a dip in holy waters. After bathing, devotees take a pledge that they would observe the vrat with devotion and sincerity. After this they worship Chhati Maiya and also consume the first and the only meal of the day. This meal is made with bottle gourd (Lauki) and gram pulse (chane ki daal). The meal prepared is strictly vegetarian and is made without onion and garlic.
Day 1: Nahay Khay, Nov 18
The festival is spread across four days and starts with Nahay Khay. After taking the first meal of the day, the fast starts and continues till the next day and is only broken after offering prayers to the rising sun.
Sunrise timing: 6:46 am
Sunset timing: 5:26 pm
Day 2: Kharna, Nov 19
The second day devotees celebrate Kharna, by observing Nirjala vrat from sunrise to sunset. They break their fast only after offering their prayers to the Sun God during sunset. On this day, women prepare sweets as prasad, which includes kheer, thekua and fruits (mainly sugarcane, sweet lime and banana).
Sunrise time: 6:47 am
Sunset time: 5:26 pm
Day 3: Chhath puja, Nov 20
This is the main day of Chhath Puja. It is observed on Shashti Tithi of Shukla Paksha of Kartik month. Women observe a day-long fast and break it only on the following day after sunrise.
Sunrise time: 6:48 am
Sunset time: 5:26 pm
Day 4: Usha Arghya, Nov 20
This is the last and the final day of Chhath Puja. Women, who observe the Chhat Puja Vrat, break their fast on this day by offering their prayers and water to the Sun God.
Sunrise time: 6:49 am
Sunset time: 5:25 pm
Foods offered as prasad and their significance
The food is strictly prepared in yellow metal utensils or earthen ones. Although people now also use steel pots as well. If possible, food is prepared in wood log fires and that too without onion and garlic. During the four day festival, people consume ‘Satvic’ food which is why onion and garlic are not used in cooking. One needs to wash hands every time before touching the prasad.
The popular prasads made on Chhath puja are Thekua, Kasar, Daan Nimbu. While Thekua is basically a sweet Mathri, Kasar is similar to North Indian Panjiri. Fruits like banana, coconut and sugarcane too are a part of the prasad that is offered.