Nagpur Today Special Chhat Puja- Nagpur is a multi-cultural city where almost all festivals are celebrated with equal zeal.
For those who don’t observe chhat puja, it is easy to dismiss it as a bone of contention between North Indians settled in the western parts of India and the local people.
But those who do would know that it is a festival, perhaps the only one of its kind, which actually pays obeisance to Sun as the provider of life on earth.
It is also said that the Goddess that is worshipped during the famous Chhat Puja is known as Chhathi Maiya. Chhathi Maiya is known as Usha in the Vedas. She is believed to be the consort of Surya, the sun god. Some scholars are of the view that she is only the beloved of Surya and some suggest that She is Surya’s Sister.
Usha is the term used to refer to dawn – The first light of day. But in the Rig Veda she has more symbolic meaning. Symbolically Usha is the dawn of divine consciousness in the individual aspirant.
During the Chhath Puja, Chhathi Maiya is invoked to bless us with this divine consciousness which will help us to overcome all the troubles in the world – this bless will help us to Moksha or liberation.
Chhat Puja, falls on sixth day after Diwali is very famous among people of North India (specially people from Uttar Pradesh & Bihar). People from these states make sure to celebrate it every year in Nagpur. NMC has made special arrangements in Ambazari lake for Chhat.
In Chhath puja the rising sun is workshipped by women fasting for almost 36 hours for the wellness of husband and family.
As we had a conversation with one of the family at Ambazari during pooja, Daughter of the family Shweta Tiwari said, Falling on the sixth day after Diwali, on Kartik Shukla Shashti, it is also the only festival in India when the setting sun is worshipped first, followed by prayers to the rising sun.Though it does not carry with it the glamour of karwa chauth, yet chhath truly raises the bar for women praying and fasting for the well-being of their husbands or families.
The chhath fast stretches to more than 36 hours and the rituals that are observed over four days are stringent enough to daunt even the most spiritually inclined.
The festival is steeped in tradition and requires paraphernalia which is not very easily available especially to those who are staying away from their native place.
Ideally the rituals begin with a holy dip in Ganga and fasting for the entire day and late in the evening the fast is broken after performing puja at home. The next day marks the beginning of the thirty-six hour fast. The day is devoted to preparation of the evening worship.
The offerings consist of seasonal fresh fruits, vegetables and lentils along with deep fried sweets made with rice flour called thekuwa and khajure. These are placed in a soop, and carried to the river bank where the women offer arghya to the setting sun.
Further she added, “We go to Ambazari lake to offer arghya but the problem is that it is a tank with still water and the arghya is a mix of milk and water, so where we stand the water there gets very milky with so many of us doing puja. There are many of us who have now built big tanks in the neighbourhood to perform this puja.”
The third day is crucial and women prepare to offer worship to the rising sun. The puja soop is prepared once again and kept under a canopy made from sugarcane in which earthen lamps are placed.
The three-day festival is marked by singing of chhath geet.
The special thing she likes is the prasad offerings include sweets, Kheer, Thekua and fruit offered in small bamboo soop 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.
Seema Singh, a homemaker says, “Traditional chhath songs are sung to keep the spirits high of the women who fast for nearly 36 hours. Songs like Konpi Konpi Bolalen Suruj Dev, O Chhatthi Maiya, Karab Raori Seva and Raoure Sevaitye Mora Nirmal Kaya are all prayers offered to the sun god and to Chhath devi.”
The word Chhat denotes the number six and thus the festival begins on the sixth day of the Hindu month of Kartik in the Hindu lunar calendar, which falls in late October and November. Further she added,
It is commonly believed that the wishes of the devotees are always granted. Also, the devotees dread the punishment for any misdeed during Chhat. Therefore, the city remains safe and experiences peace during this time when even criminals prefer to behave.
The Days Of Puja’s Festivity:
The festival of Chhat is marked by celebrations and rituals that last 4 days.
The devotees bathe in the holy river Ganges to wash away their sins. They also clean their homes thoroughly.
The devotees observe a fast for the whole day, which is broken in late evening, after performing the puja (worship ceremony) at home. They offer kheer (rice pudding) and fruit to God and then share it with family and friends.
The day is spent preparing the prasad (offerings) at home. In the evening the devotees go to a riverbank or pond where the prasad is offered to the setting sun. The devotees return home for another colorful celebration. Under a canopy of sugar cane sticks, they place clay elephants containing diyas (earthen lamps), and baskets filled with prasad. Agni(fire god) is worshipped.
On the final day of the festivities the devotees, family and friends go to the riverbank. Prasad is offered to the rising sun. The devotees break their fast and the Prasad is shared with all the people around.
Benefits of Chhath Puja
1. The Chhat practice improves the immunity of the Vratti’s body.
2. Antiseptic effect: Safe radiation of sunlight can help cure fungal and bacterial infections of the skin.
3. Raktavardhak (increase in fighting power of blood): As a consequence of the practice of Chhat, the energy infused in the blood stream improves the performance of white blood cells.
4. The solar energy has a great influence on the glands, which results in balanced secretion of hormones.
5. Energy requirements are met by the solar energy directly. This will further detoxify the body.
1. A state of creative calmness will prevail in the 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, and other negative emotions will be reduced.
3. With patient and sincere practice, the psychic powers like intuition, healing, and telepathy awaken. This depends on the concentration with which the practice is undertaken.
Millions of men and women worship Chhathi Maiya during the Chhat Puja to overcome the troubles in their life with her blessings. She provides the knowledge that can dispel the darkness in the life of people.And thus we finished our Chhat Puja Today.
By Suhani Vanjani