Chaath Parba

Chhath or Dala or Surya sasthi is a festival of hindus mostly celebrated in the eastern Uttar Pradesh, Northen Bihar and Mithila region of Nepal. Chhath is celebrated to worship Sun and his wife Usha and thank them for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes of the peoples. This festival is celebrated in the holy river or pond. In hindu religion sun is considered as the god of energy and life force. Hence it is worshipped during the chhath festival for healthy and prosperious life. It is also believed that sun cures many diseases including leprosy and provide longevity and prosperity of family members and relatives.

Chhath is celebrated in four days. Celebration is done by holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water called brata, standing in water for long periods of time and offering prashad and arghya to the sunrise and sunset.

Chaath puja is celenrated on the Kartika shukla Shasthi. It is the sixth day of the month of Kartik in Bikram Sambat Calendar. It is also celebrated inthe March - mApril called as Chaiti chhath. Since this festival is celebrated on the sixth day of the Kartik month the festival is named as Chhath, which means sixth.

The goddess worshipped during the festival is known as Chhathi Maiya. Chhathi Maiya is the another name of Usha, second wife of Surya, the sun god.

The four days of Chhath parba are:

1. Naha Kha

Naha Kha is the first day of Chhath puja. It is also called as arwa Arwain. Naha means bath and kha means eat. In this day devotees eat only once a day. People take bath in the holy river and keep the house clean. Womens take brata on this day.

2. Lohanda and Kharna

Second day is called Lohanda and Kharna or argasan. On this day the womens taking brata observe a fast for the whole day and ends in the evening a little after sunset. After worshipping sun and moon kheer(rice delicacy), chappatis and bananas are distributed among the family and friends. The vratins go on a fast without water for 36 hours after second day evening prasad.

3. Chhath

The third day is the main day called Chhath. It is on Kartik Shukla Sasthi. On this day Sanjhiya Argha or evening offerings is done. People make prasad in the day time. In the evening all family members go to the riverbank, lake or pond to make the offerings or Aragh to the setting sun. In kathmandu, Rani Pokhari is opened for Argha. In Janakpur, argha is offered in Ganga sagar.The very important part in Chhath is devotees offer prayers to the setting sun. People gather and perform cultural programs with song and dances in the evening.Maithili, Magadhi and the Bhojpuri songs are being sung on that day reflecting folk songs.

Kosi: In the night Kosi is being held where lights are lit late in the evening and offering argha to the sun. THe lamps are placed under a canopy of five sugarcane ticks. These five ticks represents the huma body made of pancha tatwa as described by ayurveda. Five elements are earth, water, fire, air and sky. This is especially done where recent marriage or childbirth has taken place. The light of lamps represents the solar energy sustaining mankind.

4. Usha Arghya

Usha Arghya, meaning morning offerings, is also called as Dusra Aragh. on this day the devotees along with family members go tot he rivrbank or pond before sunrise to make offerings or arghya to the rising sun. The festival ends with the breaking of the fast by the Vratins. All people receive the prasad by visiting the house of devotees. The main worshippers is called as Parvaitin meaning occasion or festival and are usually women. However, Chhath not being gender-specific festival a large number of men also participate in the festival.

The prasad includes sweets, kheer, Thekua, laddu made from rice grit and fruit(sugarcane, banana and sweet lime) offered in small bamboo soop winnows. The food is strictly vegetarian and cooked without salt, onions and garlic.

How chhath parba started?

Chhath puja is believed to be started from the period of Mahabharat. Draupadi used to worship and greately devoted to the Lord Sun. So she had power to cure any diseases including leprosy. Hinduism believe sun has unlimited power to cure diseases. The holy and devine energy of Lord Sun is believed to made the Draupati most powerful women to treat and cure many diseases. This is the period and reason for chhath parba to be started and continued.

Some also believe that Karna, son of Surya became powerful due to sun and he started observing surya puja and chhath is believed to be started.