18 November 2012

Festivals of India – Chatth Puja





India is a colorful land of different festivals, cultures and religions  . Hinduism is often described as a religion of fasts, feasts and festivals. Chhath Parva or Chath Puja is an important festival of India which is especially celebrated by Hindus in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh and some parts of Nepal. Nepal Post issued a postage stamp on 31st December 2009 on Chhath Parva .

Chhath Puja :

The Chhath Puja, also known as Surya Shashti, is a Hindu festival in which a Puja (worship ritual) is performed to offer thanks to the Sun God, Surya, for supporting all the life on Earth. The Puja is performed with spirited enthusiasm and reverence, on Kartik Shukla Shashti i.e. 6th day of the month of Kartik, according to the Hindu calendar, typically in the month of October or November (as per the Gregorian calendar), exactly 6 days after another famous Hindu festival called Deepawali. Interestingly, Chhath Puja is the only festival in the world where devotees offer salutations to the setting and rising sun to celebrate the significance of the cycle of birth, which starts with death. Being an age old festival, passed on from the Vedic age and the era of Mahabharata, Chhath Puja comprises of ritualistic abstinence from food and other worldly pleasures and comforts.

The festival, spread over four days, starts with the worshipper taking a dip in the holy water of river Ganges or any water body at sunrise. Some of the holy water is brought home by the worshipper for preparation of offerings (Prasad). From this day onwards, the worshipper, to observe ritualistic purity, is segregated from the main household for four days and sleeps on the floor on a single blanket. The following morning, a fast is observed by the worshipper which ends a little after sunset. After eating, another fast that lasts 36 hours is observed by the worshipper. When the day of the ritual arrives, offerings (Prasad) are made to the setting sun and the rising sun, the following morning, and the fasting ends with distribution of the same offerings among the family, friends, and anyone who asks of it.

Apart from offering thanks and prayers to the Sun God for all the bounties of life, the worship is also believed to cure various diseases such as leprosy, and bestow long life, prosperity, and blessing to all the family and friends of the worshipper. It's not just the worshipper that partakes in the ritual; other members of the family contribute to it too. While women dedicate their time to prepare the offerings, children and other members too contribute by way of taking over the daily chores and cleaning the whole household. Though more ornately celebrated in Bihar and Jharkhand, it is also celebrated in many other part of the country like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Delhi, Mumbai, and Northeast regions of India.

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Stamp Image : Pradip Jain - Patna

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