Seeking the Blessings of the Sun God

Festival Issue 205 Dec, 2018


The two big festivals of Nepal, Dashain and Tihar, is followed by the biggest festival of the Terai, that is, Chhath Puja(Nov 11-Nov 14, 2018). This festival is dedicated to Lord Surya, or the Sun god, and his wife,ChhathiMaiya. Even though it is celebrated mostly in the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and eastern Uttar Pradesh, as well as in the plains (Terai) of Nepal, there has Been a growing trend of observing it also in places like Kathmandu. And so, if you are in the Capital during this time, do visit some sites on the banks by the Bagmati River, as well as the Ranipokhari pond in central Kathmandu, where you will see many devotees celebrating the Festival. Of course, it is observed withmuch more fanfare in the Terai cities, especially the Bigger ones like Birgunj, Janakpur, and Biratnagar..

The festival is observed by women, who immerse themselves in the water of sacred rivers and Ponds and await the rising of the sun. The first day in known as NahaiKhai, when devotees (called vrattis) take a bath and eat a simple ritual meal.The second day is known as Kharna, When the vrattis observe a strict fast from dawn to dusk, and spend the day in preparation for the Main festival day (the third day), purchasing necessary items like sugarcane, fruits, as so on.In The evening, they prepare a prasad (ritual offering) that they offer ChhathiMaiya, and then they Break their fast eating the same prasad. The most important item of the ritual offering is known As thekua, which is made of flour and sugar, or jaggery.

On the third day, the vrattis continue with the preparations for the festival, which also includes The procuring of a daura (a bamboo basket) to carry the prasad. This evening, they go to the puja Sites and worship the setting sun by offering SandhyaArghya(evening offering). A canopy using Five sugarcane sticks tied with yellow cloth is made, under which is placed lighted lamps Andelephant-shaped earthen pots.This is known as the Kosi ritual, and those families in which There has been a recent marriage or a child birth observe it. At dawn, the vrattis, along with other Family members, sit on the bank till the sun rises, and then offer the BihaniyaArghya (morning Offering) immersed in the water.Then, they return home and break their fast by first taking ginger And water, followed by a delicious feast.