Chhath Puja – India is a salad bowl of various religion, caste, community and beliefs. Every other day there is some festival in one or the other part of the country. After participating in the festival of lights, people especially from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh; and in other parts, where Biharis are settled prepare themselves for one of the renowned festivals of India ‘Chhath Puja’.
The rituals of the puja start from the sixth day of the Kartik month of Hindu Calendar. For four days the Sun god is worshipped with devotion and devotees seek His blessings for the prosperity of the whole family.
The zeal of the Chhath Puja is marked by offering prayers to the Sun, observing fast and taking dips into the holy water of Ganges. The rituals for those who observe this puja is rigorous and very demanding, it encourages abstinence from food and water for almost 72 hours.
Each rituals we follow had their roots in the past, similarly to know the mythological origin of Chhath Puja we need turn back the pages to the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Though the exact source remains undefined, but according to some it has some relation with the period of Ramayana and Mahabharata. According to Ramayana, the historicists believe, on returning to Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile and victory over Ravana; Lord Rama and Sita observed a fast in order to worship the Sun God and broke the fast in the next dawn, which is assumed to have evolved as today’s Chhath Puja.
The next myth goes like this: we all know Karna is known as ‘Suryaputra’ son of Sun God and Kunti. According to Mahabharata, Karna used to worship Sun God and religiously offered prayers to Sun while standing in the river after taking the holy dip. After performing the puja, he used to distribute the prasad amongst the needy. In another story it is mentioned that Pandavas and Draupadi performed similar puja in order to win back their lost kingdom. These are two epic references we find for Chhath puja.
Now, the rituals: as per the three days puja rituals, on the first day known as nahayekhayedevoteescannot consume food before taking bath. After that they prepare dishes like kheer, kadduki sabziand chana dal and have it after performing the puja. Devotees fast till the kharna puja concludes next day. Jaggery-laden kheer and purisis offered to the Sun God and is distributed amongst the devotees who has observed the fast. The third day fast is the toughest, the devotees neither consume food nor water. Till the sun sets the devotees worship Chhathi Maiya, the consort of Sun God by singing folk songs and taking holy dips in Ganga or any other holy river or lake. The third day is known as pehlaarghaya. On thefourth day, known as doosraarghya the worshipers break their long fast by worshipping the Sun God in the dawn break and offering prayers to the rising Sun. The famous song of “kaanch hi baanskebahangiya” plays on as the devotees complete their rituals with the blessings of Chhathi Maiya.
You must be wondering where is the mouth-watering Thekua as mentioned in the title, right? Each festival has their signature sweet like Ganesh Chaturthi has modak, Durga Puja has narkelnadu, Diwali has gujjiya and in the same way Chhath has Thekua, which are made for each other. No matter whatever be the occasion or festival, food, desserts and snacks hold a special place. Thekua is a crispy, crunchy, sweet delectable dish offered as prasad to Chhathi Maiya while performing the puja. It is must food item along with sugarcane, coconut and various other fruits and some vegetables.
Being the part of one of the most scientific religion, keeping fast during Chhath Puja also has scientific advantages. It is said that, the three days fast and rituals is very beneficial for the body of the devotee, who keeps the fast. It helps the human body to detoxify, and the dips in the water by exposing oneself to the sun increases the flow of bio-electricity in the body.
This bathing in sunlight improves the functionality of the body. It is believed that, it prepares the body for the onset of the winter by strengthening the immune system by destroying harmful microorganisms present in the body.