The season of Autumn and the months of October -November, brings to us another much celebrated festival in North India, the Chhath Puja. It is the festival of the sixth day of the Bengali month Kartik (October-November) when Hindus worship the Sun god or the God of light. There are also many mythological stories revolving around this celebration.
According to Mahabharata, on this day Draupadi and the Pandavas worshipped the Sun god for their future as recommended by the Saint Dhaumya and later saw her all problems vanishing along with those of her husbands as they won back their lost kingdom of Ayodhya. In Ramayana it is depicted as the day when Sita offered her prayers to the Surya Devta by observing a fast after her husband Ram and she returned from the 14 years of exile. Thus, this day is looked up to as a day of worshiping when the Sun God grants us a prosperous future in terms of health, wealth and all other desirable ways.
This festival continues for four days with special rituals to observe on each day. On the first day the devotees make their way to the holy Ganges to take a dip in the pious water to purify their body and soul and marking the beginning of the festival. The second day the women of the family observe fast all day long to prepare the food that is offered to the Sun God on the following days. It is said to be a work of great devotion and sanctity besides the scrumptious delights, which are well enough to make your mouth water at the sight of it.
On the third day, devotees gather at the banks of the Ganges to pray the setting Sun and offer the bhog the Almighty and similarly on the fourth day they praise the rising sun which in a way brings the rituals to an end. The thing which follows next is distribution of the prasad of ‘thekua’, ‘kheer’, ‘ladoo’ of rice grits and fruits like sugarcane, sweet lime and banana to friends and families and also enjoy it themselves.
Like many other religions in which worshiping the natural forces of the world forms an integral part of their traditions and rituals with the almighty being the Surya Devta or Sun God, this festival embraces the same thought to pray for a better future and the continuance of life.
(Coordinator, Class XII, St Thomas’ Boys School, Kidderpore)