“Even for me, life had its gleams of sunshine.”Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Well, that was a dark thought to start with – but in order to highlight the importance of the Sun, this was is the best one.
Why would we want to highlight the importance of the sun? It is the reason why we exist – the source of light, the power for the plants, and the source for Chhath Puja!
Wait source for Chhath Parba? Isn’t that a festival? How come Sun is related to that festival?
For those who don’t know Chhath Parba is a festival that is dedicated to Sun or to be more accurate the Solar deity – Surya Dev, in order to thank him for bestowing us with life and all things related to this. In fact, Chhath Puja is among the few festivals that celebrate and worship the Suya dev.
Let’s take a look at this festival in a bit more detail
What is Chhath Parba?
As we mentioned before, this Puja is one of the few festivals that is dedicated to the lord of the Sun – the Surya Dev in Hinduism. People observe Chhath Parba to thank Lord Sun and request him to grant our wishes.
This festival is widely celebrated in Nepal. But this festival is not exclusive to Nepal, it is also celebrated in some parts of India such as Bihar, Jharkhand, and in a few areas of Utter Pradesh. As per the Legend, the origin of this puja seems to be related to Mahabharata.
Besides this, Chhath Parba is one of those few festivals that doesn’t care about the rigid caste system present in Hinduism since ancient times. While in modern times, the lines between the Hindu caste system have been blurred, it still exists to some extent. So this festival that touches on the principle of Equality, Fraternity, Unity, and Integrity has been a unique festival since ancient times.
When is Chhath Puja
Chhath begins on Wednesday, November 10 for the year 2021 and ends 4 days later on November 14, 2021. If you want a Nepali Date, Chhath lasts from Kartik 24 2078 BS to Kartik 28 2078 BS.
|Day 1- Nhaye Khaye||Wednesday, Kartik 24, 2078 BS|
|Day 2 – Kharna||Thursday, Kartik 25, 2078 BS|
|Day 3 – Sandhya Arghya||Friday, Kartik 26, 2078 BS|
|Day 4 – Usha Arghya||Saturday, Kartik 27, 2078 BS|
How is it Celebrated?
While it may sound contrary as this is the festival is dedicated to Lord of the Sun and he does have idols, that is not quite right when it comes to Chhath Parba. Chhath Parba is the celebration of the blessing that the lord of the sun brings to people and not exactly the deity. This explains why this festival is not an idolatry worshipping.
Another reason why there this is the case may be due to the fact that Lord Surya is not the only diety that we worshipped in this festival. Along with him, Chhatihi Maya who is also known as the Mother Goddess is also worshipped. She is also the source of the name for this festival.
One thing you should know is that Chhath Puja is not a one-day festival. It starts on the day of Kartik Shukla Chaturthi and ends with Kartik Shulka Saptami, lasting up to 4 days and each of these 4 days is celebrated in different ways. Let’s take a look at these four days of Chhath Parba and how they are celebrated, shall we?
First Day: Nahaye Khaya
The name of this day literally means “bathe and eat”. Needless to say, cleansing and eating are the main activities done on this day – as the name suggests. People bathe early in the morning and clean their house after the food that has been kept in front of God is consumed. This has a symbolic meaning as it represents the blessing from the Sun God and Mother Goddess and there is a belief that after consuming this food, your mind is protected from vengeful tendencies and evil thoughts.
Second Day: Kharna
While the first day was meant for cleansing the mind, the second day is meant for cleansing the body. On this day, people fast for the whole day without even drinking a drop of water. In the evening Gur Ki Kheer, Fruits, and Roti’s laced with tons of Ghee is consumed to make up for the lost energy.
Fasting on this day is considered to be a method of cleansing the body of all the evils. But it goes without saying that if you don’t have a strong body and mindset, this can be dangerous. While humans can last up to a week without food and a few days without water, it is only under the optimum conditions. Being without food and water has a certain risk of dehydration and weakness.
Third-Day: Sandhya Arghya
Sandhya Arghya translates to the “offerings given in the evening”. On this day Arghya is offered to the Sun God and in the evening a bamboo basket with Fruits, Thekuwa, and Rice Laddos is shared among the families. At the same time, devotees offer water and milk to the Sun God – Lord Surya and Mother Goddess – Chhathi Maiya from a Soop filled with Prashads. Once this is done, Vrat Katha is told among the communities, and Songs of Shasthi Devi are sung.
Fourth Day: Usha Arghya
This is the last day of Chhath Parba. On this day, devotees need to go to the river bank to offer Arghya before the sun rises. It is believed that since this is done, the lord of the Sun along with Mother Goddes Chhathi Maya will bless you with the protection of the Child of Chatti Maya. This blessing is said to bring happiness and peace to your entire family.
Sharbat, Raw Milk, and Prashard are consumed at the end of the day to break the fast that lasts the whole day.
Needless to say, you should be careful while drinking raw milk. While it is not inherently dangerous, you cannot ignore the small risk of bacterias within the milk that can cause indigestion.
Now, with this complex and long process involved in this, one might wonder, Why do people celebrate this festival?
Why Do We Celebrate Chhath Parba?
The main reason to celebrate this festival is to ask for the blessing from the Lord Sun and Mother Goddess. It is believed that Sun is the Source of a healthy life and has a healing effect on our body. This is why Chhath Parba is celebrated by average people. But besides this, there is another reason for it’s a celebration as well.
This festival’s main purpose is to let Vratti (devotees) gain mental purity. It is believed that the rituals in his festival help devotees to purify their the body and mind.
This mainly has to do with two belief systems: Hindu religious and Yogic Philosophical ones
Hindu Belief System
As per the Hindu Belief System, the sun is considered to be able to heal our body, purify our soul and ensure the longevity of our life. Along with this, the sun is also related to the Prosperity, Progress, and overall well-being of a person.
Besides this, there is also a Yogic Philosophical belief that says: Under Certain Physical and Mental Condition, Exposing your body to solar radiation of a certain wavelength can increase the absorption of energy required for life instead of Food and water. It is due to this belief that some devotees refrain from eating or drinking during this festival.
Now the Yogic Philosophical seems scientific, but just know that it is at best a pseudoscience. The Sun is indeed beneficial for our body as it provides Vitamin D but it cannot be a replacement for food regardless of what circumstances we are in – our human bodies are not built to absorb the power from Sun.
There are two major myths that are related to the Chhath Parba- The myth about Chhathi Maya, and the Myth from Mahabharata especially related to the Pandavas. We will be looking at each of these in brief.
The myth about Chhathi Maya
As per this Myth, King Priyavrat which was the son of First Manu Swayambhu had no Children. Now having children is something that every parent dreams of. Since he had no children it is natural that the King would be sad. He was indeed very sad.
To overcome this sadness and gain some hope of having a child, he went to Maharishi Kashyap for some advice and Maharishi advised him to do a Yajna. As per his orders, the king performed the yajna under his careful instruction.
To the king’s surprise, his wife – Queen Malini did bear a child but due to some unforeseen circumstances, the child was born dead. Grieved by this the king and queen prayed for some miracle for days. The king was saddened to the point of being ready to commit suicide. One day he decided that enough was enough and it was better off dying than to live without a child.
When he was about to commit suicide, Manas Kanya – one of the Devsena appeared and said that she was the Goddess Shashti and an incarnation of the 6th part of the universe. According to the myth, she then asked him to worship her with a pure mind and soul for 6 days after which she would grant the king and the queen a healthy child.
The king then realized that not all hope was lost. King Priyavrat along with his wife did as the Khastani asked and soon enough they were blessed with a healthy child. Since then people started to worship Chhathi Maya and celebrate the day when she appeared as Chhath Parba.
Myth from Mahabharata
As per this myth, it is said that the Pandavas were in misery during their exile in the forest. If you think about it, this was bound to happen as they were princes and while they had some skills, life in the forest would be completely different from the life inside the kingdom.
They were living a miserable life – so much so that Draupadi started crying one day. The Pandavas, unable to bear the misery and tear of Draupadi were desperate to seek some relief. So one day, Yudhisthira went to Dhoumya Muni and sought a solution.
Being the wise man he is, he recalled a scripture. He told Yudhistira that food and grains are the children of Lord Sun and Sun is their father, people who worship the Sun on the 6th and 7th Day of Shukla Paksha with pure heart while chanting 108 names of lord Sun will get a healthy child, wealth, endurance and wisdom.
Now, this was the time when Deities were as natural as just any other form of life so instructions like these were extremely valuable. Yudhistira understood this and took it to his heart. He started to worship lord Sun to please him with full devotion.
Pleased by his actions, Lord sun appeared in front of Yudhisthira and granted him a copper vessel. This vessel would cook 4 types of meals. While this was an overpowered item that could possibly end world hunger, there was a limitation – the effect would only last till before Draupati took her meal.
Despite this, this was a boon for the Pandavas – enough to get out from their misery. Of course, the lord Sun granted him wisdom and wealth as well alongside the copper vessel. Because of this, the Pandavas were able to get rid of their misery.
This myth is closely tied with the fasting and blessing from the Lord Sun on the day of Chhath Parba. If you didn’t realize, the day Yudhisthira was asked to worship Lord Sun was on the same day when Chhathi Maiya granted King Priyavrat their child.
Interesting & Unique Facts Associated with Chhath Puja
Besides these, there are a few unique facts and aspects that are associated with this festival. These are the facts that are not inherently or directly related to Chhath Parba but have some significance on this festival.
For instance, did you know that Chhath is the only Vedic festival that is celebrated in India?
Or that Chhath is the only festival that is associated with Hindu Epics with more than one character associated with a festival? When we talked about the Mythm we mentioned that Surya dev gave his blessings to Yudhisthira and Granted him wisdom to solve the crisis as well as a magical copper bowl that was associated with Darupati.
Besides this, this is one of the few Hindu Festivals that has some factual scientific significance due to the core of this festival being “worship sun and bathe in sunlight”. Although many aspects of these festivals are strictly religious, getting adequate sunlight does help us boost our immune system by providing us with Vitamin -D. This also helps in managing depression as well. On top of that getting enough sunlight helps us to set our biological clock better – improving our sleep pattern and schedule as well.
Along with this, the four days of this festival are meant for calming down and purifying our bodies. Fasting has some scientific benefits as it can help in boosting cognitive performance, helps in resetting the digestive system, and helps in weight loss as well.
If you think that we are the only ones who worship the sun then you are wrong. One of the major gods in the Egyptian Myth is the Sun God Ra and along with this, we can even find Sun gods in Babylonian myth with the name of Shamash and in Japanese myth whose name was Amaterasu. As you may have guessed, a lot of these civilizations likely had a festival similar to Chhath – of worshipping the sun god- but with a slight twist as per their custom.
Chhath Parba is an important Hindu religious festival that has its origin in various myths. The connection with Lord Sun and Chhathi Maya from the myth is rather direct as well for in both of these legends, praying to these deities has granted the devotees happiness, prosperity wealth, and wisdom. So it is understandable that these deities are worshipped in this festival.
Besides this, there is also the concept of worshipping the sun as someone who grants us life and prosperity. Plants cannot function without food and if we humans don’t get enough sunlight our immune system will weaken and we will be prone to depression and several other illnesses.
Hope you found this helpful. If you have any suggestions for us, do let us known them down in the comments below. And as always, thank you for reading till the end.
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