How is Chhath Puja celebrated

Every year in October or November the Hindus in India celebrate Diwali, the “Festival of Lights, something like the Hindu Christmas. Diwali is perhaps already well known in the West, but exactly six days later a completely unknown festival, the Chhath Puja, is celebrated - even many Indians have never heard of it.

The Chhath Puja is mainly celebrated in the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and in eastern Uttar Pradesh; it is the most important festival of the year among the Hindus there.

The Chhath Puja is probably the only Hindu festival that works entirely without figures of gods. In this case, the sun god Suryadev is worshiped and, appropriately, in the form of the sun. For this purpose, the believers come to rivers, lakes or holy water basins, stand waist-deep in the water, and with offerings or incense sticks in the hand one prays in the direction of the setting sun. The festival lasts all night, and in the morning the sunrise is greeted in an equally fervent manner.

Most of the celebrants are women, and they pray for happiness for the husband and family. It is said that if the rites and prayers are properly performed, the sun god will grant all wishes. Brightly colored new saris are bought before the festival, and so the women praying in the water - including the equally motley offerings - make a beautiful picture. Among the countless festivals in India, the Chhath Puja is one of the quietest and most contemplative - for tourists it is certainly a kind of "insider tip" among the festivals. It is the pure celebration of the sun as the source of all life on earth, and one can perhaps feel transported back thousands of years when religion was still pure worship of nature.

Chhath Puja is also celebrated everywhere in India where many Biharis have settled, e.g. in Delhi and Mumbai.

The next date: November 20, 2020.

Photos and text by Rainer Krack

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(* Amn .: I write “the” because puja is feminine in Sanskrit / Hindi.)

India - Chhath Puja © Rainer Krack

This Maharashtra family has never experienced Chhath Puja. It's the first time.

India - Chhath Puja © Rainer Krack

Bowls with offerings: coconuts, pineapples, bananas, pomegranates, cinnamon apples (the green fruits with the scale-like skin), other types of fruit, as well as pastries and sweets.

© Rainer Krack

These festival participants brought coconuts as offerings.

© Rainer Krack

Children like to celebrate Chhath Puja with sparklers.

© Rainer Krack

Quiet and motionless, facing the setting sun and with offerings in hand, the believers remain for an hour or more and pray silently to Suryadev inwardly.

© Rainer Krack

Many believers take their vows to move in a strenuous up and down movement towards the water - often for miles. To do this, a stick or pen is carried in hand, you lie down on the floor, stretch your hand with the stick as far forward as possible, then stand up and lie down in the place where the stick reached . There you lie down again, hold out your hand with the stick, get up, etc. The whole thing looks like a caterpillar winding up and down and moving around. The rite is called dandwat pranaam, for example "admiration / greeting with the help of the stick".

© Rainer Krack

A family at Chhath Puja: the father carries the offerings - in a basket on his head

© Rainer Krack

The Chhath Puja gives this young balloon seller an additional source of income.

Beaches offer a lot of space to spread out the numerous offerings.

Arduous locomotion: A practitioner of Dandwat Pranaam points with the pen where he will lie down again after getting up.