Chhath Puja: Ancient Origins

Each year, millions of pilgrims congregate along the banks of the Ganges, flowing through a large swathe of the Northern plains, to perform an age-old tradition that goes back to the early Vedic times. The Chhath Puja, celebrated 6 days after the beginning of the month of Karthik (October-November), is one of the few festivals dedicated to the Sun God today. Surya, the Sun God and Usha his wife, may no longer have the pride of place they enjoyed 3500 years go in the Hindu pantheon, but on this day, they reign supreme.
Hints of the power of the Sun are still evident in what is considered the most powerful of the Vedic shlokas or chants – the Gayatri Mantra. But go through the Rig Veda and you will find that Surya, held a special place along with Indra the god of thunder and Vayu, the god of the winds. The earliest mention of sun worship is found in the Rig Veda which contains hymns dedicated to Sun God and also rituals similar to what is practised today during the Chhath festival especially during the time of the setting and rising Sun.

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