It is said that India is a place where there are more festivals in a year’s calendar than there are months in a year. Our traditions are steeped in scientific knowledge, which proves that our ancestors were men of wisdom. Chhat puja is a three day festival which is celebrated in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and certain parts of Nepal too. Chhat means six in Maithili, as it falls on the sixth day of the month of Kartik in the Hindu calendar. The name of Chhat is also derived from the deity Chhati Maiyya who is worshipped along with the Sun god. Some say Chhati is the consort of Sun; some say she is his little sister. Although there is a debate around it, the folklore and the songs that are sung in this auspicious festival, suggests that she is the ultimate worshipper of the Sun God. Eveything related to Chhat revolves around the concept of purity. Legend also has it that Draupadi too fasted in the honour of Sun god and hence was blessed with the title of ‘Annapurna’, one whose hearth is always plenty.
The first day (which is the fourth day of the month of Kartik) is called nahai khai, where you have to take a dip in holy waters and then eat something before starting the fast which lasts for around 36 hours. The fast is supposed to be kept without water. Usually, this daunting task is taken by the head of the family.
Sandhya Argh is the first offering to Surya. People worship the sun as it sustains life over this planet. People gather at the ghats and knee-deep into the water they pray to the sun for the well being of their family.
Suryoday Argh is on the next day. At dawn, people again gather near water bodies for the rising sun and pay their last homage for prosperity. After which the fast is broken. Since this festival revolves around fasting, let us have a look at what fasting does to our bodies.
Fasting has its emotional and spiritual benefits as well. It helps us to think well and clear. Research on the effects of fasting proves that it fights degenerative diseases as well. It keeps us energised whole through out the day as the energy used in digestion remains unutilised. However, there is a difference between starvation and fasting. Our festivals are such that there are intermittent gaps between periods of fasting. This proves they are scientific in nature. To reap the benefits of fasting, there should be ideal gaps between fasting periods. A longer period of fasting can lead to starvation and anorexia.