Nepal is rich in cultures. The people of Nepal celebrate number of exhilarating festivals through out the year. However, Dashain, Tihar and Chhatt fall under a month long festive season in our country. Chhat puja is one of the widely celebrated festivals in Nepal and also in some parts of other subcontinent countries. In Nepal, Chhat is mostly celebrated in the Terai belt and also found being celebrated in other regions in well. The Sun (Surya devata) is worshiped in this festival. The wives of Surya devata, Sandhya ( Dusk) and Usha (Dawn) are also worshipped along. Chhati maiya is also offered the pure devotion on the occasion. The sun is one of the main reason of the origin, evolution and existence of life. The sun has uncountable contribution for the living organisms on the planet. From being the reason for the favourable condition to initiate life to being support for the agricultural growth for food, the sun has the immense importance in life. The vegetation which provides shelter to the living organisms also wouldn’t be possible without the sun. So, the gratitude is expressed through the puja. The initiation of the worship to sun can be traced on our past as mentioned in the holy books. In Ramayana, Lord Ram with his wife Sita worshipped the sun after the completion of their 14 year long exile. In the holy book ‘Mahabharata’, Chhat puja is traced. The wife of Pandavas, Draupadi was devoted deeply towards the Surya devata.
Due to this devotion, she developed the spiritual power to cure most of the diseases including Leprosy. Hindu people believe that the sun can cure many diseases itself. This ideology can be explained scientifically too. Sun is the source of vitamin D which has numerous health benifits. Sunlight also prevents us from the various skin diseases. There are the reasons and logics on the origin of Chhat puja. Chhat puja is celebrated for four days. There are four levels to worship. Naya khaya is on the first day. On this day the devotees take in the holy river and prepare meals for the other days. Everything must be prepared in the bronze utensils. Cleanliness and purity are the must focus in the entire festival. They prepare ‘Thekuwa’ and other foods like kheer . The second day i.e. on Kharna, people fast after bathing in the holy river and worship to the sun during the evening.
After their worship, the eat prasad on the leaf of banana. And now the fast begins. Now, the third day is celebrated on banks of river. This is the most rejoiced day as the pilgrims are seen in huge number around. Sandhya argha is offered to the setting sun by the devotees who fast. The fast is still not broken. Arghya is offered to the sun after taking a dip in the river. An oil-wick lamp is floated on the river after the worship. After the arghya giving ceremony the devotees return their home in the evening. Now, the final day is called Usha Arghya. On this day, the rising sun is worshipped. The arghya is given in the similar procedure to the sun by dipping in the river. The arghya is offered by the fasting devotees. The most breath taking part of this day is, the fasting devotee should go to the river crawling the hole way towards the river in the morning. After this, the worship is completed and prasad is offered.
Taking fasts is always an important practise for the physiology of the human body. It gives rest to the digestive systems. Similarly bathing early in the empty stomach holds bundle of health benifits. It cures a lot of skin related problems. Likewise the other festivals, this festival also worships the god, teaches to conserve the environment we live in. But most importantly, it conveys the methods to have the healthier habits for the sound health in life. It draws the attention of modern people towards the importance of fasting. Chhat guides us to the proper lifestyle as backed by the science. So, the Chhat puja is the identity of Hindus. And one of the reason of cultural pride of Nepal in the global fraternity.
-Article written by: Suyash Dhakal for Land Nepal