Chhath Festival in Nepal
In context of Nepal, Chhath is celebrated by Mithila region of Terai. During the festival, Sun and his wife are worshiped by the Hindu followers for bestowing life on earth.
Hindu followers believe that god is the ultimate source of life-force & energy. According to the ritual they worship both sunset and sunrise; the setting sun thus meaning death and sunrise meaning rebirth. And to admire his power they worship Lord Surya (Sun) in exchange of prosperity, well-being and progress. Usually women are the prime worshippers but men also take part. Also the culture says that worshiping Sun helps eradicate diseases like leprosy and helps family members to live long and prosper life.
Chhath festival is celebrated for four days from Kartik Shukala Chaturthi to Kartik Shukala Saptami. In English Calendar they fall in month of October or November.
Day 1: Naha Kha
Chhath starts with Naha Kha where followers take bathe in sacred river and eat. Later on, they take holy water from river to prepare offerings for the day. The houses, temples and the surrounding are cleaned and those vratti (fast takers) eat only once in this day. Foods are prepared without contamination or special regulations are followed while preparing and family members are allowed to eat only after vratti eats.
Day 2: Kharna & Lohanda
Kharna is the day where Vrattis (those who are fasting) do not eat or drink even a single drop of water till the sunset in the evening. Preparation for coming main festive Chhath is done by buying essentials like fruits, sugarcane and other things. Later in the evening, vrattis prepare special Prasad (holy food) called Rasiao-kheer (sweet dish made of rice, milk and nuts) and Chapattis. Chhathi Maiya (Goddess) is offered these Prasad and after worshiping her vrattis break s fasting. In the midnight they prepare special Prasad “thekua” for Chhathi Maiya.
Day 3: Chhath
On third day, two rituals are performed one before/during sunset and another after sunset:
Sandhya Arghya: This ritual is also called Sanjhiya Ghat or Evening Offering and early morning usually before sunrise, people prepare offerings. And the day is spent by putting those prepared offering’s in daura (basket made up of bamboo). In the evening while sunset is about to happen vratti’s and family members gather at the bank of Holy River and they decorate surrounding for worshiping. Then the actual ritual takes place, vrattis sit on Ghat and worship setting sun. Folk songs are sung and vrattis come back to home after the ritual.
Kosi: Kosi ritual takes place in the night and is followed mainly by those families where new child has born or in case of newlywed couples. During the ritual lamps are lit and kept under a canopy of five sugarcane sticks after making offering Argha to sun. Those five sugarcane sticks signifies the human body which is believed to be made up of five elements (Pancha Tatwa) as described by Ayurveda. The ritual is conducted in the courtyard of the house or playground or the rooftop. Later this is taken to the banks of river and the ritual is continued before halting after worshipping rising sun.
Day 4: Parna
Also called as Bihaniya Aragh (Morning Offering), Parna is the final day of Chhath Puja. Early in the morning before sunrise family members go to the river bank and make offering to the rising sun. Then the festive ends with the vrattis breaking their fasting. To break the fasting special food is prepared which is called Parna or Paran. And friends and relatives gathers to celebrate the last day of Chhath Puja.