The Chhath Puja or Parva festival is celebrated by the natives of the Mithila regions in Nepal and India. This is a festival that is dedicated to the Sun god, Surya. Surya is the sun in Sanskrit, Chhath Parva is giving thanks to Lord Surya in gratitude for the subsistence of life on earth and paying homage to keep providing his eternal blessings to human beings.
Surya (the sun), a source of natural power is considered the god of energy. The lord of life force is worshiped during Chhath to promote prosperity, progress and well being of humankind. The Hindus believe that the sun can cure many illnesses. The sun is also believed to be an excellent source for healing as well while representing a token of stability and wealth; hence the worshipping of the sun in celebration to ensure the long lives and prosperity of near and dear ones.
When is Chhath Puja? - 13th November 2018
This festival is observed for four days from Kartik Shukla Chaturthi to Kartik Shuka Saptami. Chhath usually takes place between October and November on the Gregorian Calendar.
Chhath is also celebrated during Chaitra Shashti - the spring months of March and April. It is also known as Chaitra Chhath. The Kartik Sukla Chhat that takes place during the autumn is more popular.
How is Chhat Parva celebrated?
The celebration of the Chhath festivals lasts for four days. Some of the rituals that devotees partake in performing includes taking baths in holy rivers, going on a fast, standing by river banks to worship the sun for a prolonged period and offering Prashad (food that is religious offering) and Argha (a sort of vessel with gifts to the divine) during sunrise and sunset. Some devotees go on a fast that lasts as long as 36 hours without even water.
Day 1: Naha Khau
Naha means to bath and Khau - to eat, and it takes place on the first day of Chhath puja. People usually go to holy rivers close to their homes to take a dip and bring home some holy water to offer it as offerings. The house and surroundings are cleaned thoroughly while the devotees on take one meal on this day.
Day 2: Kharna/Lohanda
The day before the Chhat Parva falls on Panchami, the fifth day of the lunar calendar. The fast of the people ends in the evening after sunset. The offerings of bananas, kheer (rice pudding), and puris (fried flatbread) are distributed after the devotees finish their worship.
Day 3: Chhath
This is the 3rd day. It falls on Kartik Shukla Shashti. Evening offerings known as Sajhiya Arghya takes place on this day. The devotees spend the whole day in preparation of prasad in their homes. The whole family accompanies the fasting family member to a riverbank or lake or a large body of water to give the offerings to the setting sun.
The critical part of the Chhath Parva is for the devotees to offer prayers to the setting sun. People gather to perform cultural programs with music, songs, and dances. Traditional folk songs that are sung reflect the social structure, mythology, culture, and history of the Mithila region. The participants sing songs in Magadhi, Bhojpuri, and Maithili - the three main dialects spoken in the Madhesh region of Nepal. There are only minor differences in the celebration, puja ceremonies across families in the region but everyone welcome and celebrate this festival with enthusiasm and fervor.
Kosi, the third night.
Kosi takes place after sunset on the third evening. Lights are lit up after an offering (Argha) is made to the setting sun. Oil lamps are lit for as long as possible under a canopy of five sugarcane sticks. The five sticks represent the five elements that make up the human body according to Ayurveda; namely earth, water, fire, air and ether or space.
This ritual takes place during Chhath puja in the households where childbirth or marriage took place recently. The lit up lights signifies the sustaining energy of the sun.
Day 4: Paran
The fourth and final day of the Chhath Puja is called Bihaniya Argha. It means the morning offering. The fasting devotees along with their family members go to a riverbank again before sunrise on Saptami (seventh day of the lunar month), the last day of the festival. They make Argha (offerings) to the rising sun. The end of the Chhath Parva ends with the breaking of the devotees. Prashad is distributed to the attendees to mark the end of the celebration.
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