The Sun God is one of the prime deities worshiped in the Hindu religion. Sun, the giver of light and heat, sustains life on earth. Sun, personified as Surya, is the first god described in the ancient Hindu scriptures – the Vedas and the Puranas. It is not surprising then, that one of the most important festivals of the Hindus, the Chhath Puja is dedicated to the Sun God. The festival is a thanksgiving to the sun for the energy, the bounty, and the blessings bestowed by him. Many Hindus also worship the Chhati Mata on this day. The Chhati Mata or Maiya is the feminine energy empowering the Sun, they believe. She is also called Usha (Dawn) by Vedic scriptures. Some also call her the wife or consort of the Sun God. Coming towards the end of the harvest season, the Chhath Puja started off as a thanksgiving ritual, the farmer’s gratitude for a bumper crop, but it is now a popular Hindu festival.
Origins of the Chhath Puja
There are a number of stories regarding the origins of the Chhath Puja. Some say that the puja was first undertaken by Sita, the wife of Rama, in captivity. Sita was abducted by Ravana and was rescued by her husband after a war. To show her gratitude, Sita undertook this fast prior to Rama’s coronation as the king of Ayodhya. Others believe that the first Chhath puja was done in the times of the Mahabharatha by Karna, the son of the Sun God. Yet others say that during their years of exile, the Pandavas and their wife Draupadi lived in extreme penury. They were then visited by 108 sages. With no food to feed the sages, Draupadi was heartbroken. She was advised by the Brahmin Dhaumya to pray to the Sun God and fast on the Shasthi of the Shukla Paksha (waxing moon) of Kartik month. When she successfully completed the fast, the 108 sages felt fulfilled with their meagre offerings and blessed them.