Chhat Puja – Important pooja and Vrat dedicated to Surya in Bihar and Jharkhand
Chhat or Dala Chhath Vrat is an important and popular ritual observed by people of Bihar and Jharkhand after Diwali. Chhat is dedicated to Lord Surya and Lord Kartik. It is observed for four days in the month of Kartik (October – November). Chhat fasting, also known as Surya Sashti, is also observed in eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh and in some parts of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. In 2008, the date of main Chhat puja is November 4 and November 5. Chhat Sandhya Argh (Chhat Dala Evening puja) is on November 4 and Chhath Suryodaya Argh (Chhath Dala Morning puja) is on November 5. Nahai Khai is on November 2 and Kharna is on November 3.
Chhat vrat is dedicated to Lord Surya (Sun), Agni (fire) and Lord Kartikeya or Muruga. People undertake this Vrat for the well being of the family. It is believed that people get their wishes fulfilled, if they observe Chhat Puja. The fast is mainly kept by women, in many places men also join in the ritual and observe fast.
During the Chhat puja devotees cook food with dry wood on new oven made of brick and soil and the cooked food is ‘Prasad’ or offerings to Sun God. Garlic and Onions are not used during Chhat period.
Nahai Khai first day of Chhat
The first day of Chhat is dedicated to cleaning, preparation and purification and is known as Nahai Khai. Thousands of devotees have an early morning bath in Ganga River on the day. The main food cooked on the day is rice, chana dal, and green gourd (lauki). Lauki is an important preparation on the day and therefore the cooking and the day is also referred as Lauki Bhat.
Kharna fasting second day of Chhat
Fast or Upvaas begins on the second day and this is referred as Kharna. The fast is broken after performing a puja at home in the evening. Kheer, sweets and fruits are offered to deities and then the whole family shares the Prasad. Another round of fasting begins after the prasad is shared. This fast is usually broken on the fourth day morning.
Chhat Sandhya Argh third day of Chhat
On the third day in the evening, Chhat Sandhya Argh is offered. Devotees offer ‘Argh’ to setting sun (Lord Surya) along with ‘soop’ at a pond, seashore or riverbank. ‘Argh’ and ‘soop’ are offerings and consists of flowers, fruits, sprouted grains, dry coconut, sugarcane, white radish, sweets and khajurees. The offering is made to Surya by standing in knee-deep water.
In the evening pujas are performed at home and a special puja is done for Agni – fire god. This puja is performed in a special area cordoned off by four sugarcane sticks.
Chhath Sooryodaya Argh fourth day of Chhat
On the fourth day morning, Chhath Sooryodaya Argh is performed. Devotees repeat the rituals performed on the third day evening for rising sun. What is left after offering to Lord Surya is shared as Prasad and the Chhat Puja comes to an end.