Chhath Puja is an auspicious four-day festival that begins right after the sixth day of Diwali. It is also called Surya Shashti and is one of the prominent Hindu festivals which is celebrated with zest and fervour in North Indian states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Other places in India where people observe Chhath Puja are Chandigarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Delhi and Mumbai. This year, Chhath Puja, which began on November 8 (Monday), will conclude on November 11 (Thursday). Devotees seek blessings from the Sun God and his wife Usha to live a long, healthy and prosperous life. They take a holy dip in rivers and other water bodies. Devotees also pray for the prosperity and well-being of the entire family.
Significance and benefits
Legend has it that in ancient times, Draupadi, along with Pandavas, used to observe Chhath Puja and worship Surya Bhagwan and Chhati Maiya to regain their power over the lost kingdom. Karna, son of Lord Surya and Kunti, initially performed Chhath Puja. During Chhath Puja, it is believed that the sunlight from the sun has healing properties that can help cure many diseases.
The rituals of Chhath Puja are a natural detoxification process of one’s body, mind and soul. The 36-hour long fasting and standing under sunlight, with half of the body submerged in water, has beneficial effects on mental well-being, boosts immunity, and removes toxins from the body of vrattis (people who fast). Chhath Puja rituals allow a devotee to cleanse, recycle and revitalise their body and mind.
Four days of Chhath Puja
Day 1: The first day of Chhath Puja is known as ‘Nahay Khay’. Devotees, especially women, observe fast by taking a holy dip in a river or other such water bodies and eat only a single meal the entire day. This year, Nahay Khay was observed on November 8, Monday.
Day 2: The second day of Chhath Puja is observed as ‘Kharna’, where devotees fast for the whole day. In the evening, devotees offer kheer, roti, and some jaggery to the gods. The vrattis only eat kharna prasad in the evening and fast for the next two days. This year, Kharna was observed on November 9, Tuesday.
Day 3: ‘Sandhya Arghya’, the third day of Chhath Puja is when devotees observe a nirjal vrat, or fasting without water. This is the day when devotees gather at rivers, ponds and other water bodies to offer Sandhya Arghya (evening offerings) to Surya Bhagwan and Goddess Usha. This year, Sandhya Arghya will be observed on November 10.
Day 4: The fourth and the final day of Chhath Puja festivities is celebrated as ‘Usha Arghya’, where devotees again visit rivers, ponds and other water bodies to worship and offer the arghya to Lord Sun and Goddess Usha early in the morning. With Usha Arghya, the devotees conclude their 36-hour-long Chhath Puja fast by offering prayers to Sun God and Maa Usha and consuming the Chhath Puja prasad. This year, Usha Arghya will be observed on November 11.