Chhath Puja 2023: Chhath Puja, a four-day celebration steeped in tradition and devotion, has kicked off with the auspicious Nahay Khay ritual, marking the beginning of a vibrant journey into faith and festivity. For the denizens of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the festival is not merely a ritual but a pilgrimage back to their roots, where every road leads homeward in anticipation of this grand spectacle.
Dedicated to the Sun God and Chhathi Maiyya, the revered daughter of Lord Brahma, Chhath Puja is more than just a cultural event; it's a spiritual odyssey that unfolds over four days of meticulous rituals and heartfelt prayers. The origins of the festival can be traced back to the Vedic period, as the Rigveda mentions the age-old customs of Sandhya and Usha arghya. It is said that the ascetic Rishis, who observed long fasts out of devotion, are the ones who first conceptualized Chhath Puja.
Chhath Puja falls on the sixth day of the Shukla Paksha of the Hindu month of Kartik, usually six days after Diwali. This year, the festivities will span from November 17 to 20, with devotees immersing themselves in the divine energy of the Sun God and Chhathi Maiyya.
The journey begins with devotees taking a purifying dip in holy water bodies like the Ganga or Yamuna, setting the stage for the subsequent 36-hour fast. After the ritual bath, the day unfolds with the partaking and distribution of prasad, a delicacy comprising kaddu bhaat, symbolizing the commencement of the sacred observance.
Devotees rise early to prepare the prasad of rasiya or gud kheer, embarking on a day-long nirjala fast that refrains from food and water from sunrise to sunset. The fast concludes with the consumption of rasiya, the final meal before the onset of a challenging 36-hour fasting period.
As the rigorous fasting continues, preparations for the evening puja unfold. Soops are filled with thekua, coconut, seasonal fruits, and more, as devotees offer arghya to the setting sun, standing waist-deep in a water body. The fasting persists through the night, symbolizing unwavering devotion.
The final day of Chhath Puja culminates with devotees offering arghya to the rising sun, known as Usha Arghya, standing steadfast in the water. The completion of this profound ritual brings unparalleled joy and happiness to devotees and their families, who come together to relish prasad from soops, savoring the moment for days to come.
Chhath Puja is not just a festival; it is a testament to the unwavering faith of its observers, who endure a 36-hour fast with prayers for the well-being of their children and families. Intriguing legends, such as the tale of Suryaputra Karna and the Pandavas' encounter with the food crisis during exile, add layers of depth and meaning to this cultural extravaganza.
In essence, Chhath Puja is a celebration of spirituality, resilience, and the profound connection between humans and the cosmic forces that govern life. As the sun rises and sets, so does the fervor of the devotees, who embark on this incredible journey year after year, weaving together the rich tapestry of tradition and devotion.