Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India, celebrates a multitude of festivals throughout the year, reflecting its rich cultural and religious diversity. One of the most significant and widely celebrated festivals in Uttar Pradesh is Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights. Diwali is celebrated with great enthusiasm, featuring the lighting of lamps, fireworks, and the exchange of gifts and sweets.
Chhath Puja is another important festival in Uttar Pradesh, especially in regions with a significant Bihari population. Chhath Puja is dedicated to the worship of the sun god and is celebrated with great devotion. Here’s how Chhath Puja is celebrated in Uttar Pradesh:
- Ritual Preparation: Chhath Puja is a four-day festival that begins with the ritual bathing and cleaning of one’s home. Devotees fast and maintain strict purity during this period.
- Setting Up the Chhath Ghat: A dedicated platform, known as the Chhath Ghat, is constructed on the banks of rivers, ponds, or other water bodies. This is where most of the Chhath Puja rituals will take place.
- Day 1 – Nahay Khay: On the first day, devotees take a holy dip in the river and bring home holy water to clean their homes. They observe a fast and eat a special meal known as “Kaddu Bhaat” in the evening.
- Day 2 – Lohanda and Kharna: Devotees maintain a strict fast without water on the second day. In the evening, a special prasad, often made from jaggery and rice, is prepared and offered to the setting sun. After this, they break their fast and consume this prasad.
- Day 3 – Sandhya Arghya (Evening Offering): The third day is the main day of Chhath Puja. Devotees, often clad in traditional attire, gather at the Chhath Ghat before sunrise. They offer their prayers to the rising sun with various rituals, including standing in water for a long time. This is a remarkable and symbolic aspect of Chhath Puja. Offerings like fruits, sugarcane, and thekua (a type of sweet) are made to the sun god.
- Day 4 – Usha Arghya (Morning Offering): On the final day, devotees return to the Chhath Ghat before sunrise to make offerings to the rising sun. The rituals are similar to the previous day but are performed in the morning.
- Breaking the Fast: After completing the morning rituals on the fourth day, devotees break their fast and receive prasad from the Chhath Puja offerings.
Chhath Puja is celebrated with great fervor and devotion in Uttar Pradesh, especially in cities and regions with a significant Bihari population, such as Varanasi and Gorakhpur. The festival not only involves worshiping the sun god but also reflects a deep connection to nature and the importance of purity and austerity in Hinduism. It is a time when family and community bonds are strengthened, and the rituals are passed down through generations.