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Chhath
JanakpurChhathParvaFestival
A group of Sakaldwipiya Brahmin performing morning puja to Surya.
Also called Chhathi
Dala Chhath
Surya Shashti
Observed by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains
Type Cultural, Historical, Religious
Significance To thank Surya for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and fulfilling particular wishes
Begins 2 days prior to Kartik Shasti
Ends Day after Kartik Shasti
Date Kartik Shukla Shasti
Observances Prayers and religious rituals, including puja and prasad, bathing in the Ganges and Fasting

Chhath (Hindi: छठ, also called Dala Chhath) is an ancient Hindu festival dedicated to Surya, the Hindu Sun God, and therefore is also known as Surya Shashti[1]. The Chhath Puja is performed in order to thank Surya, the Sun God for sustaining life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes. Sun, considered the god of energy and life-force, is worshiped during Chhath for well-being, prosperity and progress. In Hindu Mythology, Sun worship is believed to help cure a variety of diseases, including leprosy, and ensure longevity and prosperity of family members, friends, and elders.

The rituals of the festival are rigorous and are observed over a period of 4 days. They include the holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water (Vratta), Standing in water for long periods of time and offering prashad and aghrya to the setting and rising sun.

Although it is obverved most elaborately in Bihar, Jharkhand and the Terai regions of Nepal, in modern times, this festival is celebrated in all regions and major urban centers in India. This is more prevalent in areas where migrants from the Bihar/Jharkhand/Purvanchal/Terai region have a presence. The festival in celebrated in the regions including but not exclusive to the northeast region of India, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat [2], Delhi[3], Mumbai[4] and Mauritius[5].

Date

Chhath puja is performed on Kartik Shukala Shashti i.e. the 6th day of the month ofKartik in the Hindu Calendar, exactly 6 days after Deepawali. This falls around the month of October-November as per the Gregorian Calendar. It is also celebrated in the summers (May-July), on Chaitra Shashti, six days after Holi and is called Chaiti Chhath[6]. The former 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 tougher to undertake in the Indian winters, hence demonstrating greater devotion.

History

It is believed that ritual of Chhath puja may even predate the Vedas, as the Rigveda contains hymns worshiping the Sun god and describes similar rituals. The rituals also find reference in the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata in which Draupadi is depicted as observing similar rites.

Etymology

The word chhath denotes the number 6 in Hindi [7]and the festival is celebrated on the sixth day of the Hindu lunar month of Kartik, which corresponds to months of October and November in the Gregorian calendar (a week after Diwali). The festival is also celebrated in summer, on the 6th day of the Hindu month of Chaitra corresponding to the March-April months of the Gregorian Calendar.

The word Chhath is also described as a compound of two words; Chah means 6 stages and Hath refers to the science of Hath Yog (austerity). The word Chhath refers to the process of consciously obtaining the solar energy through 6 stages involving the methods of Hath Yog. Hath here refers to the austerities such as fasting and standing in water.

Mythology

The ancient Sanskrit epic Mahābhārata has references to Draupadi, wife of the Pandavas, worshiping the sun. In the epic, Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, rulers of Hastinapur (modern Delhi) had performed the Chhatha–Vrata, seeing the Pandavas in deep trouble and on advice of noble sage Dhaumya. Through her worship of the Sun God, Draupadi was not only able to solve her immediate problem but also helped the Pandavas later regain their lost kingdom.

It is also believed that Chhath was started by Karna, the son of Surya. Surya Putra Karna who ruled over the Anga Desh (present day Bhagalpur district of Bihar) during the Mahabharat Age. He was a great warrior and fought against the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra War.

However, its yogic/scientific history dates back to the Vedic times. The Rishis of yore used this method to remain without any external intake of food as they were able to obtain the solar energy directly from the sun rays. This was done through the Chhath Method. This has been stated in the book “Sri Chhath Mahaviggyaan” (The Science of Chhath) by Yogishri Oumkaar.

Rituals and Traditions

Chhath is a ritual bathing festival that follows a period of abstinence and ritual segregation of the worshiper from the main household for four days. During this period, the worshiper observes ritual purity, and sleeps on the floor on a single blanket.

This is the only holy festival which has no involvement of any priest (Pandit). It is also probably the only form of living tradition in India in which, the devotees also offer their prayers the setting sun and then the rising sun in celebrating its glory as the cycle of birth starts with death. It is seen as the most glorious form of Sun worship.

Bihar has a number of Sun temples, flanked by a Suraj-kund or sacred pool of the Sun, forming a popular venue for the celebration of this festival.

The main worshipers, called Parvaitin (from Sanskrit parv, meaning 'occasion' or 'festival'), are usually women. However, a large number of men also observe this festival. The parvaitin pray for the well-being of their family, for prosperity and offspring. Once a family starts performing Chhatt Puja, it is their duty to perform it every year and to pass it on to the following generations. The festival is skipped only if there happens to be a death in the family that year.

The prasad includes sweets and fruit offered in small bamboo winnows. The food is strictly vegetarian and it is cooked without salt, onions or garlic. Emphasis is put on maintaining the purity of the food.

The four days Of Chhath Puja

Day 1:
Nahakha (literally bathe and eat): On the first day of Chhath Puja, the devotees take a dip, preferably in the holy river Ganga and carry home the holy water of the river Ganga water to prepare the offerings. The house and surroundings are scrupulously cleaned. The pavitran allows herself/himself only one meal on this day.

Day 2: Kharna (Day before Chhath):
On panchami, the dey before chhath, the pavitrans observe a fast for the whole day, which ends in the evening a little late after sunset. Just after the worship of earth, the offerings of Rasiao-kheer (rice delicacy), puris (deep-fried puffs of wheat flour) and bananas - are distributed among family and friends. From this day onwards, for the next 36 hours, the parvatin goes on a fast without water.

Day 3: Chhath

Sanjhiya Arghya (evening offerings): The day is spent preparing the prasad (offerings) at home. On the eve of this day, the entire household accompanies the parvatins to a riverbank, pond or a common large water body to make the offerings(Arghya) to the setting sun. It is during this phase of Chhath Puja that the devotees offer prayers to the setting Sun.

The occasion is almost a carnival. Besides the parvatin, there are friends and family, and numerous participants and onlookers, all willing to help and receive the blessings of the worshipper. 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.

Kosi: At the night of day three, a colorful event of Kosi is held. Here, lighted earthen lamps are kept under a canopy of five sugarcane sticks. The five sticks signify the human body made of Panhchtattv (five great elements - earth, water, fire, air and ether). This is a symbolic ritual in Chhath Puja, performed especially in those families where marriage or child birth has taken place recently. The lighted lamps signify the solar energy sustaining the human being. People perform this ritual at home, during late evening on day three after making the offering to the setting sun. After that, it is done at the banks of the river on day four before making the offerings to the rising sun.

Day 4: Parna (Day after Chhath)
Bihaniya Arghya (next morning offerings): On the final day of Chhath Puja, the devotees, along with family and friends, go to the river-bank before sunrise, in-order to make the offerings (arghya) to the rising sun. The festival ends with the breaking of the fast by the Vratti (parvatin or devotee) and the friends visiting the houses of the devotees to receive the prashad. Chhath being celebrated at the crack of the dawn on a river bank is a beautiful, elating spiritual experience connecting the modern Indian to his ancient cultural roots.

The folk songs sung on the eve of Chhath reflect the culture, social structure, mythology and history of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Nowadays, modern Chhath songs, largely Bollywood film remixes have caught on, but the old tradition still goes strong with a great degree of sanctity. The three main linguistic regions of Bihar: the Maithili, the Magadhi, and the Bhojpuri, and all the various dialects associated with these, have different folk songs; but have an underlying unity in their dedicated to Chhath. The minor nuances of the Chhath rituals, such as in the Kharna ritual, vary from region to region, and also across families, but still there is a fundamental similarity.

Yogic Viewpoint

Stages of Chhath (Conscious Photoenergization Process)

The entire process of Chhath is divided into 6 scientific stages of Conscious Cosmic Solar Energy Infusion Technique (Conscious Photoenergization Process).

Stage 1: Fasting and the discipline of cleanliness leads to detoxification of the body and mind. This stage prepares the body and mind of the Vratti (devotee) to receive the cosmic solar energy.

Stage 2: Standing in a water body with half the body (navel deep) in the water minimizes the leak of energy and helps the prana (psychic energy) to move up the sushumna (psychic channel in the spine).

Stage 3: Cosmic Solar Energy enters the Vratti’s pineal, pituitary and hypothalamus glands (Triveni complex) through retina and optic nerves.

Stage 4: Activation of Triveni (tri-glandular complex) Pineal, pituitary and hypothalamus

Stage 5: A kind of Polarization of happens in the spine, which results in the Vratti’s gross and subtle bodies getting transformed into a cosmic powerhouse. This can also lead to the awakening of the latent psychic energy popularly known as the Kundalini Shakti.

Stage 6: The body of Vratti (devotee) becomes a channel, which conducts, recycles and transmits the energy into the entire universe.

The Science of Chhath

The physical bodies of all the living organisms are highly sophisticated energy conducting channels. The solar bio-electricity starts flowing in the human body when it is exposed to solar radiations of specific wavelengths. Under particular physical and mental conditions, the absorption and conduction of this solar-bio-electricity increases. The processes and the rituals of Chhath puja aim at preparing the body and the mind of the (Vratti) devotee for the process of Cosmic Solar Energy Infusion.

Not many people are aware that the scientific process similar to Chhath was used by the Rishis of yore for carrying their austerities without any intake of solid or liquid diet. Using the process similar to the Chhath puja, they were able to absorb the energy needed for sustenance directly from the sun, instead of taking it indirectly through food and water.

Retina is a kind of photoelectric material, which emits subtle energy when exposed to light. Hence, very subtle electric energy starts flowing from retina. This energy (photo-bio-electricity) is transmitted from retina to the Pineal gland by the optic nerves connecting the retina to the pineal gland. This leads to activation of the pineal gland. Pineal gland is in close proximity with the pituitary and hypothalamus glands (together, three glands are called Triveni) due to which, the energy generated in this process starts impacting these glands. Consequently, the pranic activity becomes uniform, giving the Vratti a good health and a calm mind.

Benefits of Chhath Process

Chhath Process Results in Detoxification

Chhath process lays greater stress on mental discipline. The discipline of mental purity is a result of this. By employing a number of rituals, the vrattis (devotee) keep themselves busy in maintaining the cleanliness of the offerings, environment etc. Cleanliness is the most dominant thought that prevails in the minds of the devotees during Chhath.

This has a great detoxification effect on the body and the mind as mental moods can result in biochemical changes. Now comes the physical detoxification. The fasting paves the way for detoxification at material level. It is good to get rid of toxins, as they harm our bodies in a number of ways.

Detoxification helps in regularizing the flow of prana and makes you more energetic. The logic is simple. The natural immune system of the body spends much of its energy in fighting the toxins present in the body. But, using the detoxification methods such as pranayam, meditation, yog etc and Chhath practices, the amount of toxins present in the body can be reduced to a great extent. Thus, with reduction in the amount of toxins, the expenditure of energy also reduces and you feel more energetic. It makes your skin look younger and healthy. Your eyesight can improve and the ageing process of your body slows down.

Scientific Benefits of Chhath Puja

Photo-electro-chemical effect: (Physical Benefits)

1. The Chhath practice, improves the immunity of the Vratti’s body. 2. Antiseptic Effect: - Safe radiations of sunlight can help cure the fungal, and bacterial infections present in the skin. 3. Raktavardhak (increase in fighting power of blood): In due course of practice of Chhath, the energy infused in the blood stream improves the performance of white blood cells 4. Raktavardhak (increase in fighting power of blood): In due course of practice of Chhath, the energy infused in the blood stream improves the performance of white blood cells The solar energy has a great influence on the glands, which results in balanced secretion of hormones.

Much of your energy requirements would be met by the solar energy directly. This will further detoxify the body.

Photo-electro-psychic effects: (Mental Benefits)

1. A state of creative calmness will prevail in your mind. 2. To a great extent, all negative responses have their origin in the disturbed flow of prana. With the pranic flow regularized, the duration and frequency of occurrences of anger, jealousy etc, will come down 3. With patient and sincere practice, the psychic powers like intuition, healing, telepathy etc, get awakened. This depends on the concentration with which the practice is undertaken.

Daily Sun Meditation (Chhath Process)

In the fast lifestyle of the present times, it may not be possible to follow the Chhath process very often. The detoxification can be undertaken through pranayam, yog, meditation and Conscious Photoenergization Process known as Chhath Dhyan Sadhana (CDS).

Chhath Dhyan Sadhana (CDS): Conscious Photoenergization Process

Assume a comfortable position (standing or sitting) with back and spine straight. With eyes closed, face the Sun. Inhale completely, as slowly as possible. Do not strain in making the breathing slow. Maintain your comfort level. As you breath in, visualize (feelingly experience) the cosmic solar energy entering through your eyes and moving to the pineal gland through optic nerves and charging the pineal – pituitary – hypothalamus complex. Now, as you exhale, visualize (feelingly experience) the cosmic solar energy flowing down the pineal gland and spreading throughout your body with a revitalizing effect.

Thus, the process starts with inhalation and ends in exhalation. This constitutes one round. On completion of the practice, thank the Sun for bestowing upon you the life giving solar energy. Thereafter, sit quietly for a minute, observing the good things in the environment around.

CDS should be practiced within one-hour window after sunrise or within one-hour window before sunset. Any person, of any age can practice CDS. If you wish to practice CDS at anytime other than sunrise or sunset, please do not practice it in front of Sun. You can however, practice CDS in a room. Even a bed-ridden person can try and consciously draw in the solar energy while lying on the bed. With regular practice, he/she will notice an improvement in physical and mental health. Start with 5 rounds (2 minutes). Gradually increase the number of rounds as per your comfort and availability of time. Yet, for those who are not comfortable facing the sun, they can practice the technique in any room having proper ventilation. If you have time, you can also practice twice a day. Please do not hurry in increasing the number of rounds, as there is no shortcut to success in this method. The nervous system of the body takes its own sweet time in adapting and to be able to receive the energy.

Significance of emphasis on sunrise and Sunset periods

Only sunrise and sunset are the periods during which, majority of humans can safely obtain the solar energy directly from the Sun. However, there may be some exceptions. That is why, in Chhath puja, there is a tradition of offering arghya to Sun in late evening and in early morning. During these phases (one hour window after sunrise and before sunset), the ultraviolet radiation levels remain in safe limits.

Pictures of Chhath

See also

References

External links

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