On the 6th Day after the new moon (Diwali) in the month of October – November, some regions of India celebrate Chhath Festival which is a 4 day worship of Sun. It is done twice a year sometime between the Equinox and Solstice but this seems to be the most popular one. Unlike several other Hindu festivals which have over a period of time got caught in the warp of ritualistic practices, this festival inspite of all the rigorous rituals involved focuses on the divinity of Sun or Surya (Sanskrit). If you look beyond the rituals that seem to grant wishes and boons, it is a time of fasting, prayer and meditation to detox the body improving immunity, digestion, bring a glow to the skin and calm the mind. While it is mostly observed by women who are the caregivers in a family, it is not uncommon to see men observing the fast.
The 4 day festival begins on the 4th Day after the New Moon though the most important fasting day is on the 6th Day. 2017 Festival Dates are 24th October 2017 to 27th October 2017
Day1 – 4th Day after the New Moon, devotees take bath in a lake, pond, river or sea and bring some water home to clean and sprinkle the house and surroundings. Simple Sattvik Food (without any spices, onion and garlic) is prepared in bronze or clay utensils on a clay oven and had only once during the day
Day2- 5th Day after the New Moon, devotees fast through the day and worship mother earth in the evening after sunset and break their fast with simple food. For the next 36 hours they abstain from water as well.
Day3-6th Day after the New Moon, devotees visit the river or sea side where they took the holy dip along with family members to worship the setting sun along with his consort Pratyusha. Men and Women stand in knee or waist deep water gazing at the setting sun and holding a plate of fruits, sweets and offerings along with a clay lamp and incense intending to absorb the cosmic rays. Every one rushes to take their blessings once they emerge from the water. Many women are seen to adorn yellow sarees after the prayer to signify blessings from Sun. After Sunset clay lamps are lit under a canopy of 5 sugarcane sticks signifying purification of our 5 senses or paying obeisance to the 5 forces of nature.
Day4-7th Day after the New Moon, devotees gather at the banks of the river or sea to offer obeisance to the rising sun along with his consort Usha and then break the fast with fruits, sweets and water
Chhath is not only about the 6th day but also about the 6 stages of spiritual awakening and energy flow that occurs in the physical body to awaken our inner being
- Fasting is to ensure that the physical body is prepared for the absorption of cosmic energy
- Long Period of standing in waist deep water during the worship eliminates the negative energy of the body clearing the path for the flow of positive energy
- The body is then ready to receive the cosmic energy from the sun through the eyes, forehead and the top of the head
- This energy activates the pineal, pituitary and hypothalamus glands which are crucial to the functioning of our human body
- This energy flow through the spine and brings about a lightness to the body converting the body to a powerhouse of energy that can be passed on to the universe
- When the devotee emerges out of water after the worship, others seek blessings in the hope of absorbing some of the cosmic energy from them
This festival finds mention in mythological texts of Ramayana and Mahabharata as well where the key protagonists are referred to have worshiped the sun for penance, power and well being. Mostly celebrated in Bihar, Eastern UP, Jharkand and Southern Nepal.
Well, I am just adopting the spiritual side of it and celebrating with Sun Gazing, Silence, Meditation and Yoga to prepare myself for the coming days of winter !!
The link below has a collection of photographs that has captured the spirit of the moment. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.10151750279337043&type=1
Pictures taken from Wikipedia