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Devotees offering argha to the setting sun on the occasion of Chhath festival, at Gangasagar pond, Janakpurdham, on Sunday, November 6, 2016. Photo: RSS

Chhath festival begins

The Tihar celebrations may be over, but the festive season continues as another major annual festival, Chhath, got underway on Sunday. The four-day Chhath is dedicated to the Sun God, who is worshipped as the source of all power.

The festival falls on the sixth day of the Hindu lunar month of Kartik, which usually coincides with October or November in the Gregorian calendar. Chhath is celebrated in various parts of the country, including Kathmandu, with utmost joy and passion.

With preparations for the festival in full swing, workers cleaning and decorating river banks and ponds are a common sight in Kathmandu Valley. Places, including Thapathali, Narayantar and Gokarna areas along the Bagmati River banks, and Kamalpokhari, have been decked up for the event.

The river was specially cleaned on Saturday in front of the Guheshwori Temple under the 287th week of Bagmati River Cleanup Mega Campaign. Devotees are gearing up to celebrate the festival at the local Kamalpokhari as well.

The Hindu festival dedicated to the Sun God and his wife Usha is observed for four days in order to promote well being, development and the prosperity of human beings. The devotees who observe the fast during this festival are called Vrati. The rituals of this festival are rigorous which include fasting and abstaining from drinking water, offering prayers to setting and rising sun, popularly known as Arghya and offering prasad. The prasad prepared for this auspicious occasion includes rice pudding and fruits and they are prepared with due precision and cleanliness.

Emphasis is laid on maintaining the purity of the food. The vegetables and cereals are cooked only with rock salt. Use of onion, garlic and common salt is prohibited, people abstain from consuming non-vegetarian food and liquor during these four days.

Primarily celebrated by the people from the Mithila culture, the festival has also attracted the people from the hills since the restoration of democracy in 1990. It has been observed in Kathmandu with much fervour, especially after 2002.

The festival begins with the ‘Nahay-Khay’ and ‘Kharna’ rituals will be held on Monday and devotees will offer arghya on the third day which is considered the toughest of all the days. Devotees observe a day long fast completely abstaining from food and water. In the evening, they go to a water body, take a dip and worship the setting Sun. People sing folk songs dedicated to Chhathi Maiya as the devotees take dips in water. On the concluding of the festival, devotees wake up before sunrise and head to the same water body, this time to worship the rising Sun. The ritual is also known as Paaran. After offering the prayers, the devotees break their 36-hour fast.

According to believers, if a family starts observing Chhath Puja, it becomes compulsory to carry on the tradition every year, and pass it on to the next generations.


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