Chhath Puja begins on the sixth day of ‘Kartika’ month of the ‘Vikram Samvat’ – the Hindu Calendar. The festival which is also celebrated in Nepal is celebrated to worship the God of Sun, ‘Surya Dev’, and his wife ‘Usha’, thanking them for the life on earth and also to seek their blessings.
So how is the festival celebrated? During the festival, devotees keep fast for the God, as well as offer their prayers to ‘Surya Dev’ at the time of sunrise and sunset. People also take holy baths in a river. Chhath Puja is celebrated twice a year – once after the festival of Holi, and the other in the ‘Kartika’ month. However, the Chhath that falls in the month of ‘Kartika’ has more importance over the one after ‘Holi’, and is widely followed.
Interestingly, beliefs suggest that Chhath has significance with both – Mahabharata and Ramayana. It is believed that upon Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya, he and Goddess Sita kept a fast in honour of ‘Surya Dev’ which they broke after sunset. With this belief, even today devotees observe fasts during Chhath Puja and break it with the setting of the sun.
Another ritual that is part of the Chhath Puja celebration is offering payers to the sun while standing in the water. This tradition comes from the epic of Mahabharata. ‘Karna’, the son of ‘Surya Dev’ and ‘Kunti’ used to offer his prayers to ‘Surya Dev’ while standing in the water. Therefore, this too has gone down as one of the rituals. However, there is one more belief that comes from Mahabharata. Many say that ‘Draupadi’ and her five husbands – the ‘Pandavas’ also performed a similar ritual to get their kingdom back. And thus, people follow it religiously even today.