Chhath, an ancient Vedic festival is celebrated twice, once from the Chaturdashi till Saptami of Kartik Shukla Pakshya and another in Chaitra. One of the important days, that is offering of argha to the sun is on Sasthi, that’s how it got its name as chhath, because sasthii means sixth day. This festival is celebrated by Maithili, Bhojpuri, Awadhi, and Bajhika speaking people in Nepal. Folks from the mountain region, settled in terai also celebrate this festival with the same enthusiasm along with Muslims that serves as a perfect example of religious tolerance.

Chhath is the celebration of the ultimate source of energy, the sun, and the mother of all the festivals, “Chhathi Maiya”. The festivities start on Chaturthi which includes, “Nahai-khai” and abstaining from garlic-onion, nonveg food.

The second day of kharana includes strict day-long fasting without water and the devotee receive the prasad of kheer (rice-pudding)/banana/sohari after offering to Chhathi Maiya in the evening.

The third day is very important as it comprises of strict fasting without water and offering of different handmade prasad(thekuwa-bhuswa) and vegetables like ginger-sugarcane, turmeric roots-eggplant (Brinjal), etc to setting sun.

And the fourth day includes the offering of the prasad to the rising sun. After the observance of the fourth day, devotees break their fast.

Apart from religious belief, chhath is eco-friendly and a festival of equality. It’s eco-friendly as it uses mostly handmade utensils and homegrown crops. It also signifies equality as, be it from a privileged or underprivileged group as per the societal rule, the basic Prasad is always, “thekuwa-bhuswa” to represent equality.

One principle of Vedic Hinduism is “Vasudhav-kutumbakam” signifying all the individuals on this planet as one family.  This festival justifies the meaning as it requires Domm (experts in bamboo tools) and Kumhaar (experts of clay-tools) made utensils, Hajam ( experts of hair and nail-art) cutting nails of the devotee observing fast and Mali (experts in horticulture) to get flowers showing the importance of every caste where people come together to celebrate.

By stating this, I am not advocating casteism 😉. Here, I am rather emphasizing the importance of everyone.  The culture has incorporated so much discrimination amongst caste, and I am against casteism of any form because everyone has their importance in the ecological niche 😊.

Many festivals are still caste-driven but if it is celebrated to preserve the culture rather than being discriminatory, it should be applauded. We have come along a long way on eradication of casteism with the right education and hopefully, it is a work in progress 😉.

Another important aspect of Chhath is that it is observed by widowers or widows as they are excluded from most of the “Mangal Karya”. Similarly, my favourite part is that it is observed by both, males and females without any extra burden of strict fasting on females only.

I do not have Chhath in my father’s side of the family, but my mother’s side of the family does celebrate it with great devotion. And growing up in Janakpur, the culture of Chhath has grown on me.

When I relocated to States a decade ago, I got to observe Chhath in Denton, Texas which made me nostalgic and made me appreciate my culture more. To me, Chhath is a cultural festival rather than just being a religious one.

And in the present context, we can observe Chhath by explaining the importance of the sun to the new generation as we all know that sun is the ultimate source of energy and Chhath is the way of saying Thank-you 😊.

So, I want to wish all those celebrating Chhath a very happy Chhath 2078 B. S.

(I would like to acknowledge Mrs. Mishri Pandey, Manju Mishra, Renu-Gunjeshwor Raut for educating me with some of the aspects of Chhath and I am still learning). Jai ho Chhathi Maiya!

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