Mumbai: It is that time of year when North Indian women (especially from Bihar and Jharkhand), dressed in their best attire and with vermilion adoring their head, offer prayers to the Sun God. Chhath Puja is believed to be the only Vedic festival dedicated to Surya (the Sun God).
Women offer their prayers to Surya to thank the Lord for sustaining life on Earth. The customary practices of the puja are spread over four days and the rituals include holy bathing, fasting and performing the arghya (offering prayers to the setting and the rising Sun).
Since the festivals falls on the sixth day of the month of Kartika, it is called Chhath. Women also offer their prayers to Chhati Maiyya or Goddess Usha (Goddess of Dawn).
On the first day, women take a holy dip in a water body. This is called Nahay khay. Kharna is observed on the second day. On this day, women observe fast and offer prayers to the Sun God. In the evening, kheer and other preparations are distributed among the family members. On the third day, women prepare prashad and in the evening perform the Sandhya Arghya and the festival concludes with the Usha Arghya on the fourth day after prayers to Goddess Usha are offered.
Both the setting and the rising Sun are worshipped to mark the cycle of death and birth. Like other Hindu festivals, Chhath too is symbolic in nature.