The ancient Hindu festival Chhath will start on April 9 with “Nahai-Khai” (Bathe and eat). The festival dedicated to Lord Bhaskar – the Sun God, is considered to be a means to thank the Sun for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and fulfilling particular wishes.
One the first day of the festival, the worshiper cooks a traditional vegetarian meal and offers it to Lord Surya (the Sun God). The worshiper eats only one meal on this day from the preparation.
Devotees will perform a special ritual “Kharna” on Wednesday (April 10, 2019) evening after the sunset. On this day also, the worshiper eats his/her only meal from the offerings (prasad) made to the Sun God in this ritual. Friends and family are invited to the household on this day to share the prasad of the ritual. From this day onwards, for the next 36 hours, the worshiper goes on a fast without water.
On Thursday (April 11, 2019) evening, also called Sanjhiya Ghate (संध्याकालीन अर्ध्य), Lord Bhaskar will be offered the first “Ardhya“. The worshiper will take a ritual bath and worship the Sun God, usually on the bank of a river or a common large water body.
Ritual rendition of regional folk songs, carried on through oral transmission from mothers and mothers-in-law to daughters and daughters-in-law, are sung on this occasion.
The same bathing ritual is repeated on the following day (April 12) at the crack of dawn. The festival will come to end on Friday morning (Binahiya Ghate or प्रात:कालीन अर्घ्य) after offering second ”Ardhya” to Lord Surya. This is when the worshiper breaks his/her fast and finishes the ritual.
Chhath being celebrated at the crack of the dawn on a river bank is a beautiful, elating spiritual experience connecting the modern Indian to its ancient cultural roots.
Worship of sun has been described in the Rig Veda, the oldest Hindu scriptures, and hymns praying to the sun in the Vedas are found.
It is believed that worshiping of the sun would help cure a variety of diseases, including leprosy, and also ensure longevity and prosperity of the family members, friends, and elders.
Chhath is celebrated twice a year: once in the summers, called the Chaiti Chhath celebrated after Holi, and once in the winters around a week after Deepawali, called the Kartik Chhath. The latter is more popular because winters are the usual festive season in North India, and Chhath being an arduous observance, requiring the worshipers to fast without water for more than 24 hours, is easier to undertake in the Indian winters.
Lord Surya in Hinduism
Lord Surya, or the Sun, is worshipped at dawn by most Hindus. he is the centre of all prayers during the festivals of Makr Sankranti, Rath Saptami and Chhath Puja where his role as the source of all life is emphasised.
The Vedas assert Sun (Surya) to be the creator of the material universe (Prakriti) and the source of all life. He is the supreme soul who brings life-nourishing gifts for us, in the form of light, warmth, enabling crops to grow and creating the seasons.
In the layers of Vedic texts, Surya is one of the several trinities along with Agni and either Vayu or Indra, which are presented as an equivalent icon. Surya’s iconography is often depicted riding a chariot harnessed by horses, often seven in number which represent the seven colours of visible light, and seven days in a week.
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