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Chhath is an ancient Hindu festival dedicated to the Hindu Sun God, Surya, also known as Suryashashti. The Chhath Puja is performed in order to thank Surya for sustaining life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes. The Sun, considered the god of energy and of the life-force, is worshiped during the Chhath fesival to promote well-being, prosperity and progress. In Hinduism, Sun worship is believed to help cure a variety of diseases and helps ensure the longevity and prosperity of all.

Although it is observed most elaborately in Bihar, Jharkhand and the Terai regions of Nepal in modern times, and is more prevalent in areas where migrants from those areas have a presence. It is also celebrated in all regions and major urban centers in India. The festival is celebrated in the regions including but not exclusive to the northeast region of India, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Delhi, Mumbai, Nepal and Mauritius.

Dedicated to Lord Surya(Sun God), Lord Agni(Fire God) and Lord Kartikeya(Muruga), Chath Puja symbolizes truth, non-violence, compassion and forgiveness.

As the holy word suggest and according to Hindu calendar, the festival falls on the sixth day of the Kartik(October to November). The four-day long Chhath festival features a number of rituals, performed at home and on the banks of the pious Ganga. Holy fresh water bodies are also considered as the place of Chhat puja. Pilgrims believe to offer prayer before the glorious sun down and early sun-rise. They compare the natural cycle with the process of birth and death of an individual.

The rituals of the festival are rigorous and are observed over a period of four days. In Chhat Puja Devotees fast whole day, make preparation for visit the holy Ghat(bank) and in the evening they offer Chhat Sandhya Argh to the orange-red setting sun at the river bank. Flowers, fruits, dry coconut, bananas, sweets and sugarcane are categorized as 'Arghya' and 'Soop' and are offered by standing in the knee-deep water. Returning home, festive extends with singing devotional Chhath songs and offering prayer before Lord Agni. The rituals are performed in area lined up by four sugarcane sticks. Pilgrims, after performing each ritualistic steps, break their fast with having Prasad and Kheer. Rituals further continues and early morning of the final festive day commences 'Arghya', a holy Arti by devotees to the rising Sun. They carry a 'puja thali' filled with sandalwood paste, vermillion, rice, fruits and sweets; cover the wholesome with a bright glitzy cloth and proceed towards the bank of river or seashore singing Chhath puja geet. Offering prayers follows with chanting mantra and hymns from the Rig Veda. They further break their fast and distribute the prasad to all waiting for it.

It is also said that the Goddess that is worshipped during the famous Chhath Puja is known as Chhathi Maiya. Chhathi Maiya is known as Usha in the Vedas. She is believed to be the consort of Surya, the sun god. Some scholars are of the view that she is only the beloved of Surya and some suggest that She is Surya’s wife. Usha is the term used to refer to dawn – the first light of day. But in the Rig Veda she has more symbolic meaning; symbolically Usha is the dawn of divine consciousness in the individual aspirant.

During the Chhath Puja, Chhathi Maiya is invoked to bless us with this divine consciousness which will help us to overcome all the troubles in the world – this bless will help us to Moksha or liberation.

COURTESY: chhatpuja.co.in/

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