Introduction: The sacred day dedicated to the ultimate source, i.e. the Sun, of life to the earth is an ancient Vedic festival called Chhath which is also celebrated as Surya Shashti. The prime motto to celebrate the occasion is to send salutation to deity Surya or the Sun for being the source sustaining life on the earth while rendering prosperity, health and progress. In Hinduism and in science also, the Sun is believed to be a ‘curator’ that enables the creatures to get off various diseases, such as leprosy, and to bless longevity to every being.
Testimonial scriptures: Rig Veda, Sanskrit epic ‘Mahabharata’
Occurrence: Chhath falls on the sixth day of the Hindu lunar month ‘Kartik’. As per Gregorian calendar, it is celebrated in the month of October and November.
In summer, Chaitra Shashti falling in the month of March-April, that is some days prior to Holi (the festival of colours), is known as Chaiti Chhath.
Observing states and nations: Bihar, Jharkhand, Eastern Uttar Pradesh and the Terai provinces of Nepal, the northeast region of India, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Delhi, Mumbai, Chhapra (Saran), Darbhanga, Samastipur, Muzaffarnagar, Madhuvani, Dehri-on-Sone (Rohtas), Patna, Dev, Gaya, Karnataka, Magalore, Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname and Jamaica
Etymology: The Prakrit derivation called ‘Sasthi’ stands for sixth and the word Chhath means six which signifies correspondingly to its occurrence day, i.e. sixth day of Hindu Kartik month.
History of its origin: The Maga Purohits or Shakya Dwipi Brahmins might be invited by the local rulers for performing ritualistic worshipping of the deity sun. Thus, they are supposed to be the pioneer of originating the tradition of Chhath Pooja. Even, Now-a-days Chhath is an occasion of celebration mostly in the area where Shakya Dwipi Brahmins are found.
The foretold mention of testimonial scriptures refer the account of Chhath celebration in the poem reciting the performance of Chhath rites performed by Draupadi and the Pandavas for getting elimination from the problems and thus, they restored their dynasty eventually.
The similar practice of Chhauth celebration used to be followed by the Karna (the sun of Surya) who reigned over the Anga Desh (presently in Bhagalpur district of Bihar).
By tracing facts of Vedic era, our ancient saints or sages would absorb energy from the sun and remain starved throughout the day. This trend became the trademark ritual of Chhath festival.
Our holy Vedas have a mention of Chhathi Maiya or Usha who is believed to be the consort of the deity Sun. Being beloved or spouse of the Sun she is worshipped on this occasion. As the name of the sun’s beloved means the first ray of the sun; thus, it becomes more relevant to the name of this festival symbolically.
Customary rituals: Chhath is an eve to remain on fasting ardently after taking bath and worshipping the deity. For making the self purer and sanctified, the celebrants have to sleep on the floor. The worshipping needs not requisite ritualistic performance, specifically of priests. Reverence and worshipping are to be offered when the sun sets and in the very next morning.
Devotees mostly consist of women who are known as Parvaitin & men also. They observe the ritualistic ceremony while summoning deity Sun to settle prosperity in the life of their children or wards.
Devotees try to appease the Sun by offering sweets, Kheer, Thekua and fruits. They carry all requisite offering in a bamboo winnows (soop). Satvik food is suggested to be taken on this day excluding onion, garlic and salt as it induces purity.