Jamshedpur: The four-day festival began today with Nahay Khay. Day one saw thousands of devotees offering prayers to the Sun God across the city. The ghats reverberated with traditional songs, as many women sang devotional songs dedicated to the Sun God as they took the holy dip.
“Chhath is celebrated six days after Diwali. It is associated with faith, purity and devotion to the sun, the only god we can see. We took a bath in the holy river and cleaned ourselves before preparing food,” said a housewife sporting a new cotton sari, especially bought for the occasion.
It is perhaps the only time of the year that people, forgetting differences of caste, colour and creed, stand alongside and pay obeisance to the Sun.
Makeshift markets have come up in different localities of Jugsalai, Bisutpur, Sakchi to sell fruits and other commodities like baskets and `soonp’, used by Chhath devotees for paying obeisance to the Sungod.
Another woman, AradhanaSinha, said the ”ritual of Nahai-Khay is a symbol of purity and strict discipline. On Saturday the main offerings, Argya, will be given to the sun god on the river banks, Sinha said. During the festival, married women observe a fast for 36 hours and devotees traditionally offer wheat, milk, sugar cane, bananas and coconuts to the sun.
Different puja committees are erecting welcome arches at many places in the city. They have also started making lighting arrangements along the roads leading to the ghats.
Purity is strictly observed during the festival. Also, onion and garlic are not used in many households, especially those whose member(s) are on fast for the Chhath, during the four days.
The four-day Chhath festival, in continuance of a tradition that goes back to posterity, carrying forward India’s living tradition of worshipping the divine creator and nourisher — the Sun God.
Legend has it that Draupadi, the wife of the PanchPandavas, performed Chhath when in exile from Hastinapur. As many as 14 shlokas have been dedicated to Usha — or ChhathiMaiya — in the earliest of the Vedas, the Rig Veda. Usha has sometimes been mentioned as the Sun’s beloved and other times as the Sun’s wife, and therefore the name ChhathiMaiya. Chhath is celebrated twice a year, once in May-July called Chaiti Chhath, and once in October-November called Kartik Chhath.
In the four-day festival, the first day begins with the ritual bathing. On the first day, `arwa’ chawal, kaddu (gourd), the price of which escalates to Rs 100 a kg during Chhath, and bajka is cooked in the daytime.