Chhath pooja is dedicated to Chhath Mata (known to be the sister of the Sun God) and the Sun God, the god of energy and the life-force. The day is also known as ‘Surya Shashti’ which is commemorated on the sixth day after Diwali.
Chhath is a major Hindu festival involving several rituals and fasting which are considerably harder than the other Hindu festivals. Strict fasting is observed in which devotees do not consume even water throughout the day until the fast is broken and eat only once after breaking the fast. People take dips in holy water bodies, stand there in the water and offer prayers facing the sun for long periods. Prasad is offered to the Sun God at sunrise and sunset. Devotees thank the Lord for granting their wishes, protecting them and bestowing them with a happy and healthy life. The festival is kind of unique to Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.
The humble food prepared during Chhath festivities plays a significant role while performing the pooja and rituals. It provides a flavourful essence to the festival with a variety of simple but scrumptious dishes. These dishes include:
The first day of the festival is known as ‘Nahay Khay’ and it symbolises purity and discipline. On this day women fast throughout the day and have only one meal that comprises of chana dal, lauki ki sabzi and boiled rice. All the dishes are prepared in earthen or bronze utensils. Lauki bhaat has a special significance among all dishes. It is a simple recipe prepared in Ganga Jal and is offered with boiled rice. The dish symbolizes the purification of the body for the extensive festival.
On this occasion, chana dal is cooked in a different way than usual. It is a simple recipe that includes only soaked chana dal, Ganges water, ginger and rock salt. No other spices and seasonings are added. It is served hot with boiled rice.
The second day of the festival is known as ‘Lohanda’ and ‘Kharna’. On this day devotees observe nirjala fast and break the fast after sunset. After Kharna pooja, kheer and poori are first offered to the Sun God and then it is distributed among family and friends along with other delicacies. Kheer is made of milk, rice, and jaggery. Cardamom powder is added to give it a special flavour. Lots of dry fruits are used to garnish the kheer prasad.
It is a famous Bihari sweet dish that is specially made during Chhath Pooja. It is a combination of powdered rice and jaggery that keeps the body warm. This sweet delicacy is best to be consumed during the winter season.
Thekua is one of the most popular sweets from Bihar which is prepared especially during the Chhath celebration. It is a biscuit type sweet snack which comprises of whole wheat flour, sugar, ghee and lots of dry fruits. This traditional chhath pooja recipe is made either in the evening of Kharna (second day of Chhath) or in the next morning or Sandhya arghya.
Chhath festival is not only about fasting but it is also about traditional feasting. The savouries are offered as Prasad and thus prepared without onion, garlic and common salt. Sendha namak (rock salt) is used instead of common salt. Also, holy Ganges water is used while preparing the Prasad. The dishes are often made on traditional chullhas made of mud using mango wood as fuel. Those who do not have mud stove opt to use mud or bronze cookware.
Chhath is a ‘Mahaparva’. Prepare these traditional Prasad dishes and offer to the Sun God and seek his blessings. May the god of energy bless you with a happy and robust life.
Happy Chhath Pooja 2019!