Chhatt is celebrated in Bihar and Jharkhand and where ever people from those regions have migrated to.
THE COLOURFUL FESTIVAL:
There are many festivals that are celebrated by the Hindus of Bihar and Jharkhand. The Hindu festival of Chhatt is unique to that region. Chhatt is dedicated to the worship of the Sun God and therefore, is also known as Surya Shashti. Chhatt is celebrated as thanks to the Sun for providing the necessities of life on earth, and also for fulfilling particular wishes.
The word Chhatt denotes the number six and thus the festival begins on the sixth day of the Hindu month of Kartik in the Hindu lunar calendar, which falls in late October and November.
It is commonly believed that the wishes of the devotees are always granted. Also, the devotees dread the punishment for any misdeed during Chhatt. Therefore, the city remains safe and experiences peace during this time when even criminals prefer to behave.
The Days Of Festivity:
The festival of Chhatt is marked by celebrations and rituals that last 4 days.
The devotees bathe in the holy river Ganges to wash away their sins. They also clean their homes thoroughly.
The devotees observe a fast for the whole day, which is broken in late evening, after performing the puja (worship ceremony) at home. They offer kheer (rice pudding) and fruit to God and then share it with family and friends.
The day is spent preparing the prasad (offerings) at home. In the evening the devotees go to a riverbank or pond where the prasad is offered to the setting sun. The devotees return home for another colorful celebration. Under a canopy of sugar cane sticks, they place clay elephants containing diyas (earthen lamps), and baskets filled with prasad. Agni(fire god)is worshipped.
On the final day of the festivities the devotees, family and friends go to the riverbank. Prasad is offered to the rising sun. The devotees break their fast and the prasad is shared with all the people around.
The Festivities And The Rituals:
Chhatt is a very joyous and colorful festival. All the people dress up in their best clothes. Devotional folk songs are sung both at home and on the riverbank. Millions of people gather at the banks of river Ganges in Patna (Capital of Bihar) to celebrate Chhatt. The streets are kept spotlessly clean by volunteers, who also decorate all the streets leading to the river.
The prasad includes sweets and fruit kept in small baskets made of bamboo.
The food is strictly vegetarian and it is cooked without salt, onions or garlic. Emphasis on put on maintaining the purity of the food.
Once a family start performing Chhatt Puja, it is continued annually by the following generations. If unable to perform the puja themselves for personal reasons, it is recommended that one should assist some one else who is performing the puja by providing funds or the prasad instead of completely missing the puja.
The Places Of Activity:
The sun temples in Aurangabad and Baragaon near Nalanda, actively celebrate Chhatt. During the festival time it is very crowded. All the devotees go to the banks of the river to offer their prayers to the Sun god.
Over the years people from both Bihar and Jharkhand have moved to other states and even to other countries for education or career. With them they have taken along the festival of Chhatt so it is now celebrated in many other places.
The splendour of Chhatt is some thing to experience and enjoy. There are beautiful folk songs sung for Chhatt. It is a shame that most of them are passed down in families but are not recorded for others to hear and enjoy.
Recently a few well known singers have tried to recreate the folk songs. A few examples can be found in the section ‘Chhatt Geet’. Hope you enjoy listening to them and will go out and buy the cd or tape from a reputable dealer.