Chhatth Puja is one of the most ancient Hindu festivals which is celebrated with much gusto in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh. The four day long festival of worshipping God the Sun started on 24th October and will continue till 27th October. As the name signifies Chhatth meaning six, the main festival is commemorated on the third day which falls on the sixth day after Diwali wherein pujas are performed to acknowledge the blessings of the Sun in sustaining life on earth.
The history dates back to the times of ancient Vedas. This is evident from the ritual that is performed today to worship Surya Devta are similar to those mentioned in RIg Veda. Also, it is believed that the Rig Veda also consists of hymns worshipping the Sun. Ramayan also takes us back to the incident of Lord Ram and Maa Sita observing a fast and offered prayers in honor of the Sun god. This happened in Shukla Paksha after they returned to Ayodhya from 14 years of exile. So this ritual subsequently evolved to the celebration of Chhatth Puja today, which became a significant and traditional Hindu festival and is celebrated with zeal and zest every year.
This four-day festival is observed with a lot of rituals and processes. This is how the devotees perform and offer prayers to Surya Devta.
Nahay Khay- This happens during the first day of Chhatth Puja wherein devotees take a holy dip in a river or pond consisting of Ganga Jal. If there is no possibility of taking a dip in river Ganges or any of its distributaries, people pour few drops of Ganga Jal into the water they take a dip in. This holy water is then taken home to prepare the offerings.
Lohanda- On the second day of Chhatth Puja, the devotees fast for the whole day which ends in the evening after the Sunset. They prepare the offerings (prasad) which they consume after worshipping the Sun and the Moon. After this, they fast for 36 hours without water.
Sandhya Arghya (evening offerings)- The devotees take a dip in the holy water body post preparing prasad and worship the Sun god amidst folk songs.
Usha Arghya- The fourth day, devotees offer prayers or ‘Arghya’ to the Sun god with the Sunrise taking a dip in the holy water following which they break their fast.
During these four days of Chhatth Puja, devotees observe purity and live life simply and frugally. Chhatth Puja is yet again a reminder of realizing the importance of a natural phenomenon which is the life force of the entire universe.