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It falls on the sixth day of the month of Karthik (November-December), and hence its name Chhath (meaning the number six in Hindi) and hath refers to Hath Yog (austerities). The term Chhath also refers to consciously making an attempt to obtain solar energy through six stages involved in the methods of Hath Yog.
The History of Chhath Festival
One major significance of Chhath festival is that its history dates back to the Vedic period. The festival has a mention in the Rig Veda. It is believed to have started by Karna, the son of Surya during the Mahabharata era. Mahabharata states that the festival was observed by Draupati and that her problems were solved.
It is believed that the Rishis of the Vedic times observed the rites involved with it to get energy directly from the sun without the intake of food and water.
Rituals Associated With Chhath Festival
Numerous rituals also contribute to the significance of Chhath festival. The festival is observed for four days and involves a number of rituals including holy bathing, rigorous fasting without consuming a drop of water, standing in water for a long time offering prayers, offering prasad etc.
Nahakha-(Meaning bathe and eat)
On the first day the people who follow the rituals, called 'Parvaitin', take a dip in a river, preferably the holy Ganges, and carry home some of its water to prepare the offerings. They have their homes cleaned and take only one meal. It is the day which marks the preparation for the festival.
Kharna (the day before Chhath): On the second day which falls on Panchami, the observers of the rituals fast the whole day which concludes after sun set. The earth is worshipped on this day and offerings are distributed among family and friends. This starts the beginning of the rigorous fast which lasts for 36 hours without even taking a sip of water.
Chhath Sanjhiya Arghya (evening offerings):
On the third day, the morning is spent in making prasad or offerings. The worship and the rituals begin in the evening when the observers with their family follow their worship on a river bank or any other water body. Women sing folk songs taught to them by mothers or mother in laws.
Kosi, an important ritual is observed on this day. An earthern lamp is lit under a canopy of five sugarcane sticks which depict the human body made of the four elements. The flame of the lamp symbolises the fifth or the solar energy. Kosi is normally carried out after sun set at homes and before sunrise on the fourth day on riverbanks.
Day 4: Parna (the day after Chhath)
Bihaniya Aragh (next morning offerings): On the fourth day the observers of the rituals make way to the riverbanks and offer their prayers after which they break their fast.
On the final day of Chhath Puja, the devotees, along with family and friends, go to the riverbank before sunrise, in order to make the offerings (Aragh) to the rising sun. The festival ends with the breaking of the fast by the parvaitin and friends visiting the houses of the devotees to receive the prasad.
Significance of Chhath Festival
The Yogic philosophy has it that the physical bodies of living organisms are equipped to conduct energy. The observance of Chhath Festival, is an exposure to allow the solar bio-electricity to flow in the human body when it is exposed to solar radiations of specific wavelengths. The rituals associated with the Chhath festival is to prepare the body and the mind of the observer for the process of cosmic solar energy infusion.
Another notable significance of observing Chhath festival is that it brings about mental discipline through the observance of its rituals. The festival also helps in the detoxification of the physical and mental bodies. Fasting paves way for physical detoxification. Detoxification also helps in systematizing the flow of prana making one more energetic.
So let us understand the significance of observing the Chhath festival as we celebrate it.