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General Studies 1 >> Indian Heritage & Culture

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1. Context

President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended warm wishes to the nation on the occasion of Chhath Puja. This significant festival, celebrated on November 19, 2023, holds deep roots in Bihar, parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh, and Nepal. Notably, Chhath Puja has gained increased visibility nationwide in recent years, with images of its celebration even reaching international shores.

2. About Chhath Puja

  • Chhath Puja is a four-day elaborate celebration in honour of the Sun, which involves a long fast without water, and making offerings to Usha and Pratyusha, the light of the rising and the setting Sun, while standing in a water body.
  • Several beliefs are prevalent about why Chhath is observed. Some believe that it is a carryover from the time that man worshipped nature.
  • After Lord Ram and Goddess Sita returned victorious to Ayodhya from Lanka, they are said to have observed a fast and conducted a yagna for the Sun god.
  • In the Mahabharata, when the Pandavas were in exile, Draupadi went to sage Dhaumya for help, who advised her to observe a fast and pray to the Sun, and eventually, all her prayers were answered.
  • Karna also organized an elaborate ceremony in honour of Surya (the Sun), his father.
Image Source: Her Zindagi

3. How Chhath is Celebrated

Chhath Puja kicks off on the sixth day of the Kartik month, extending to October-November.
Some people celebrate it in the month of Chaitra also (in April), which is called the Chaiti Chhath. Devotees honour Chhathi maiyya, the Sun's sister, following strict rules for spiritual gains. The festival involves cleansing rituals, the preparation of special offerings, and the creation of thekuas, a significant element in Bihari cuisine.
  1. The first day of the festival is called naha kha, where those observing it take a meal (khana) only after a ceremonial bath in a river, a pond, or the sea (nahana).
  2. The second day is called kharna, on which the one observing the fast takes only one meal in the evening, of roti and kheer (rice pudding). This is also the day friends and family gather to prepare thekuas, which are essentially flour cakes with sugar or jaggery fried in ghee.
  3. The third day is called Sanjh ka Arghya, devotees go to the banks of a water body. Those who can't, build a temporary pool in their homes. The banks are decorated with diyas, rangoli, and sugarcane stalks
  4. The fourth day is called Bhor ka Arghya, the same ritual is conducted at dawn, for the rising Sun, called the Bhor ka Arghya, and the community returns home from the riverbanks, grateful for the successful conclusion of a difficult festival and for having taken part in it.

4. Conclusion

Chhath Puja holds a unique place in the hearts of Purvanchalis for several reasons. It serves as a symbol of community coming together, drawing Bihari migrants back to their roots. Notably, the festival transcends caste boundaries, with no involvement of priests. Both men and women observe the fast, emphasizing devotion to a visible and equal God. The festival's simplicity and inclusivity, regardless of one's social or economic standing, underscore its significance, delivering a powerful message of equality and reverence for nature.

For Prelims: Chhath Puja, Purvanchal, Bihari migrants, Sun god, Mahabharata, sage Dhaumya, Kartik, Chaitra
For Mains: 
1. Evaluate the ethical considerations surrounding the practice of fasting and its potential impact on individual health. (250 Words)


Previous Year Questions

1.  Chhath Puja, the famous traditional festival of India is dedicated to which of the following Gods? (SSC GD 2021) (UPSSSC VDO 2019)

A. Moon        B. Lord Brahma       C. Sun          D. Lord Shiva

Answer: C

2. 'Purvanchal Express Way' in Uttar Pradesh will not pass through which of the following cities? (UPPSC 2018)

A. Faizabad       B. Basti          C. Azamgarh            D. Mau

Answer: B

3.  Which of the following is/are famous for Sun temples? (UPSC 2017) 

1. Arasavalli
2. Amarakantak
3. Omkareshwar

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

A. 1 only     B. 2 and 3 only       C. 1 and 3 only       D. 1, 2 and 3

Answer: A

4. The Sun temple at Konark, is popularly known as the __________. (RRB NTPC 2022)

A. White Pagoda        B. Black Pagoda         C. Golden Pagoda       D. Bronze Pagoda

Answer: B

5. According to the Mahabharata, in which Mahajanapada did the Pandavas live during their exile? (Rajasthan Police Constable 2020) 

A. kuru         B. kaushal         C.  mall             D. matsya

Answer: D

6. Chaitra 1 of the national calendar based on the Saka Era corresponds to which one of the following dates of the Gregorian calendar in a normal year of 365 days? (UPSC 2014)

A. 22nd March (or 21st March)         B. 15th May (or 16th May)

C. 31st March (or 30th March)          D. 21st April (or 20th April)

Answer: A

7. With reference to the National Calendar, which of the statements is/are correct?  (UPPSC 2019)

1. The National Calendar of India is based on Vikram Era.

2. The National Calendar is adopted from January 26, 1950

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

A. 1 only        B. 2 only         C. Both 1 and 2         D. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: D

1. What are the main socio-economic implications arising out of the development of IT industries in major cities of India? (UPSC 2021)
2. Discuss the changes in the trends of labour migration within and outside India in the last four decades. (UPSC 2015)

Source: The Indian Express

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