Chhath Puja, one of the most ancient Hindu Vedic festivals, is celebrated with much aplomb and gusto in states such as Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh. The festival that is observed over a period of four days is dedicated to lord Surya, the Hindu Sun god and his wife Usha. Over the days, pujas are performed to acknowledge their blessings and support in sustaining life on earth. This year, the puja will be celebrated from October 24 and continue till October 27. The main day, or Chhath, falls on October 26; it is so named because chhath means sixth, which is the sixth day of the month of Kartika.
All through the four days, different rituals are observed. Fasting, holy bathing, fasting, abstaining from drinking water, offering prasad and prayers to the rising and setting sun form integral part of the four-day festivity. There are also people who, while heading to the river banks, perform a prostration march as a sign of their devotion. The four days have separate names and different traditions are followed and observed on each day.
The first day is known as Nahay Khay and devotees usually take holy dip in river Ganga to cleanse themselves of sins or fasts are observed by women. Some even carry the holy water and use it in cooking. Devotees observe Lohanda and Kharna on the next day and some women observe fast from sunrise to sunset.
On the third day, that is usually considered the main day devotees, observe fast and abstain from even drinking water. Offerings to the setting sun, known as Arghya are also dome on this day. After fasting for 36 hours the fast is broken on the final day.
Prayers are offered to the sun and people pray for the well-being of their families. Once a family starts celebrating chhath puja, the practice is generally followed every year till there is a death in the family in some particular year.