Chhath Puja 2023: Chhath Puja, a vibrant and sacred festival celebrated primarily in the northern Indian state of Bihar and neighboring regions, is a time of reverence, spirituality, and deep-rooted traditions. It is a captivating ode to the Sun God, Lord Surya, and Chhathi Maiya, his divine consort. As the festival unfolds, it brings together families and friends to offer prayers and seek blessings from the Sun God. The celebration is accompanied by a culinary extravaganza of authentic Bihari dishes that reflect the cultural significance and fervor surrounding Chhath Puja in 2023.
History And Origins Of Chhath Puja:
The origins of Chhath Puja can be traced back to ancient times, with references to the festival found in Hindu scriptures. It is believed that Lord Rama and Sita, upon their return from exile, performed the first Chhath Puja to express their gratitude to Lord Surya. Another tale associated with the festival tells the story of King Priyabrat and Queen Malini, who were blessed with a child after performing Chhath Puja with devotion.
Significance Of Chhath Puja:
Chhath Puja holds immense importance in Hindu culture, as it is believed to bring prosperity, well-being, and happiness to the devotees and their families. The festival lasts for four days, each with its own special rites and meaning. It is observed twice a year, in the months of Chaitra and Kartik, according to the Hindu calendar. In 2023, Chhath Puja will be celebrated from November 17th to 20th.
The festival revolves around the worship of Lord Surya, the Sun God, who is considered the source of all life and energy. Devotees offer prayers, perform rituals, and observe fasts to seek blessings for a healthy, happy, and prosperous life. Chhath Puja is particularly significant for women, who observe fasts for the well-being of their families and the welfare of their sons.
Rituals And Traditions – Chhath Puja 2023:
Chhath Puja is marked by a series of rituals and traditions that span over four days. Let’s explore each day’s significance and the corresponding rituals:
Nahay Khay (November 17, 2023) – Purifying the Body and Soul:
The festival commences with Nahay Khay, which takes place on November 17th, 2023. On this day, devotees take a holy dip in a river, pond, or other bodies of water to purify their bodies and souls. It is a ritual of cleansing that emphasizes the importance of physical and spiritual purity. After the cleansing, the fasting person breaks their fast by consuming traditional vegetarian dishes, including pumpkin vegetables, gram dal, radish, and rice.
Kharna (November 18, 2023) – Observing the Nirjala Fast:
Kharna, which falls on November 18th, 2023, is the second day of Chhath Puja. It involves observing the Nirjala fast, which means abstaining from food and water for the entire day. Prepare a unique Prasad in the evening, consisting of rice, milk, and jaggery. Cook this special Prasad on a new earthen stove using mango wood. After consuming the Prasad, the fast begins and continues for the next 36 hours.
Sandhya Arghya (November 19, 2023) – Offering Prayers To The Setting Sun:
The third day of Chhath Puja, known as Sandhya Arghya, falls on November 19th, 2023. It is a day of offering prayers to the setting sun. Devotees prepare an Arghya, a basket decorated with fruits, thekua (a sweet delicacy), and rice laddu. Standing waist-deep in water in a river or pond, they offer the Arghya to the setting sun with utmost devotion and gratitude.
Usha Arghya (November 20, 2023) – Welcoming The Rising Sun:
On the final day of Chhath Puja, November 20th, 2023, devotees gather at the riverbanks to welcome the rising sun and offer prayers to Lord Surya. Perform the ritual known as Usha Arghya. After offering the Arghya, break the 36-hour-long fast and consume Prasad. It is a moment of joy and celebration as the devotees express their gratitude for the blessings received and seek the continued well-being of their families.
Authentic Bihari Dishes For Chhath Puja 2023:
A significant aspect of Chhath Puja is the culinary extravaganza that accompanies the festival. Traditional Bihari cuisine, known for its rich flavors and age-old recipes, takes center stage during the celebrations. Here are seven authentic Bihari dishes that hold a special place in the hearts and palates of those celebrating Chhath Puja in 2023:
Thekua: A Delightful Sweet Treat:
Thekua is an essential and beloved sweet dish during Chhath Puja. Made from wheat flour, jaggery, and ghee, Thekua is a deep-fried cookie-like treat. Flavor the dough with cardamom, fennel seeds, and sometimes coconut, giving it a unique taste. Shape Thekua into small discs adorned with intricate patterns and deep-fry until golden brown. It is a delightful and energy-rich snack that provides sustenance to devotees during the long hours of fasting.
Chana Dal with Rice: A Comforting Meal:
Chana dal (split Bengal gram) with rice is a simple yet comforting dish often prepared for Chhath Puja. Cook chana dal with aromatic spices like cumin, coriander, and bay leaves, creating a flavorful, protein-rich lentil curry. Traditionally serve it with steamed rice for a hearty, satisfying meal. Chana dal with rice provides the necessary nourishment for those observing a fast during Chhath Puja.
Kheer: A Creamy Rice Pudding:
Kheer, a creamy and fragrant rice pudding, is a popular dessert during Chhath Puja. Slow-cook rice in milk until it becomes soft and creamy. Sweeten the kheer with sugar and flavor it with cardamom, saffron, and sometimes a hint of rosewater. Garnished with slivered almonds, pistachios, and cashews, kheer adds both flavor and visual appeal to the festive spread. Share it with family and friends during the celebrations as it symbolizes prosperity.
Sattu Paratha: A Wholesome Delight:
Sattu paratha is a wholesome and traditional Bihari dish made from roasted gram flour. Roast gram flour and mix it with spices like green chilies, ginger, and ajwain to prepare sattu, the key ingredient. Stuff the flavorful mixture into wheat flour dough, roll it out and cook it on a griddle. Sattu parathas are both nutritious and filling, making them an ideal choice for a meal during Chhath Puja.
Laal Saag: A Vibrant Side Dish:
People often prepare Laal Saag, or red amaranth greens, a popular leafy vegetable in Bihari cuisine, during Chhath Puja. The greens are sautéed with garlic, green chilies, and a touch of mustard oil. The result is a vibrant and flavorful side dish that pairs perfectly with hot steamed rice or sattu paratha. The spiciness and freshness of laal saag complement the richness of the festival’s meals.
Chana Ghugni: A Spicy Chickpea Curry:
Chana ghugni is a spicy and tangy chickpea curry that is a staple dish during Chhath Puja. Cook chickpeas with a blend of spices, including cumin, coriander, and tamarind, to make it. The addition of tamarind gives it a distinctive sourness, which balances the heat from the spices. People typically serve Chana Ghugni with rice or puri (fried bread), adding a burst of flavor to the festive spread.
Litti Chokha: A Famous Bihari Delicacy:
Litti Chokha, a famous Bihari dish linked with Chhath Puja, involves baking stuffed round wheat flour bread over an open flame or in a tandoor. People usually serve it with chokha, a spicy mixture of roasted and mashed vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes. Chokha is flavored with mustard oil, green chilies, and various spices, giving it a smoky and robust flavor. Litti chokha is a beloved and hearty dish that is not only delicious but also symbolic of the celebration of Chhath Puja.
Conclusion – Chhath Puja 2023:
Chhath Puja in 2023 is a time of devotion, reflection, and celebration. TDevotees observe the four-day festival with great fervor and enthusiasm, centering on worshiping Lord Surya, the Sun God. They actively perform rituals, prayers, and fasting during Chhath Puja to seek blessings for a healthy, happy, and prosperous life. Authentic Bihari dishes, such as the sweet Thekua, comforting chana dal with rice, and flavorful sattu paratha, add to the festive atmosphere and embody the cultural heritage of the region. As you celebrate Chhath Puja in 2023, embrace the traditions, flavors, and spirit of this sacred festival. May Chhath Puja fill your life with prosperity, happiness, and spiritual enlightenment.
“May the divine blessings of Lord Surya bring light into your life and fulfill all your wishes. Happy Chhath Puja!”