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Chhat puja is one of the popular festival of Bihar and Jharkhand. It is also celebrated in states like West Bengal, Assam, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and even in other countries like Nepal and Mauritius. Chhat puja is also known as ‘Suryashashthi‘.
Chhath Puja is observed on the sixth day of Kartik Month. Chhath Puja in 2010 is on Kartik Sashti or Surya Shashti, 11 November 2010. Chhath puja is performed on Kartik Shukala Shashti, which is the sixth day of the month of Kartik in the Vedic Calendar, exactly 6 days after Deepawali. Chhath Puja is celebrated for four days. Chhat Greeting is sent days ahead of chhat puja.
The four days are Chhath Nahai Khai (10th November 2010), Chhat Kharna (10th November 2010), Sanjha Urga and Subah Urga (11th November 2010),and Chhath Paran (12th November 2010). In Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, Chhat is observed as Surya Shashti. Famous Surya temples like Konark Surya temple of Orissa and Arasavilli Surya Devalayam in Andhra Pradesh celebrate surya shashti.
Nahai Khai is the first day of Chhat. On this day devotees take bath in Holy Ganges as a symbol of purification. Before that houses are cleaned and decorated. People prepare themselves for this intense austerity. The ritual is called vrat.
The main thing in this vrat is fasting. People fast throughout the day. In the evening they offer Chhat Sandhya Arghya to the setting Sun at the riverbank or seashore. The offering is called as ‘Arghya’ or ‘Soop’. It consists of flowers, fruits, dry coconut, sugarcane, sprouted grains, white radish, khajurees and sweets. This offering is made to Sun god by standing in knee-deep water.
Folklores and hymns are sung with somber hues on the banks of the Holy Ganges or any fresh watery body. Lamps are offered to the Ganges upon which millions of lamps are seen lit and thousands of hands are seen with offering of ‘Arghya’ till the late night.
Following this the devotees return home and have grand celebrations with singing and feasting. Special pujas with sugarcanes are conducted in home for Agni deva (god of fire). Then fast is broken by eating ‘Prasadam’ or sanctified food.
People pray to the Sun god for their well-being. They have ardent faith that by observing Chhat puja one gets his wishes fulfilled. They also believe that this vrat helps in curing leprosy and ensures longevity and prosperity of the family.
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