Chhath is one of the few all-women celebrations observed by the women of the family without the necessity of a male priest and the utterance of Sanskrit mantras. Modern times have however gradually witnessed the involvement of male priests and mantras in this ancient all-women festival.
The four-day long celebration of Chhath started in Mississauga on 11th Nov 2018, had the women devotees of seven or eight families observe the rituals with rigorous austerity and purity. On the first day of the festival that is 11th Nov, the women observed fast, prepared their food of rice and dal(Lentils) mixed with squash in pure ghee after a holy bath at their home.
The next day (12th Nov 2018), even with more strict observance the women continued their fasting while abstaining from drinking water also. In the evening the women assembled at the Mississauga Hindu Heritage Temple, prepared kharna with handmade roti called aroth and kheer (Rice Pudding) with jaggery (gud). After offering the kharna to the rising moon and the Goddess Ganga, the women devotees that night, for the one last time, drank and ate food as they would have to fast and go without water for the next one and a half days.
The third day (13th Nov) is the sixth lunar day and is the foremost day of the festival. The women devotees maintained their fast while also abstaining from drinking a single drop of water. The sacred “sup” or the winnows were arranged with the offerings to the Sun God comprising a pair of coconut, turmeric roots, homemade cookies, vegetables that are grown under the soil as radishes, sweet potatoes and carrots etc. along with fruits. The unique most offering prepared and kept in the sacred winnow is the thekuas (Cookies made of flour, ghee and jaggery).Later in the day, the family assembled at the Hindu Heritage temple, holding the sacred winnows on their heads. The women sang Chhath songs dedicated to the Chhathi Mother on the way offering their pranams. Also, women devotees take a dip in the water body as a part of the ritual and prayed at the setting Sun God while everyone, including the males also offered Argha to the sacred solar orb.
In the next morning (14th Nov), the gathering of the family again walked to the same artificial pond created in the Hindu Heritage temple, carrying the sacred winnows on their heads and singing Chhath songs all the way. The women devotees like the previous evening took a dip into the water and prayed respectfully to the Rising Sun. After completion, the family distributed prasad to all present. With this the Chhath festival for the year 2018 ended in Mississauga Canada.
Chhath indeed is one of the most beautiful and eco-friendly festivals of India.Author: Arun Tiwari on November 18, 2018