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Festivals - Chhat

THERE IS NO VRAT AS SEVERE AS CHHAT. THE PEOPLE OF BIHAR have made it their special celebration. The eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh and some parts of Madhya Pradesh also give great importance to this fast, and all of them celebrate it as a festival for six days, beginning from the day after Diwali (which is in Kartik and culminates on the 6th day of the the waxing moon of the same month). The Tith is Chhat, hence the name. It falls somewhere in October-November.Chhat is considered to be one of the most rewarding fasts and pujas. Lord Kartikeya or Skanda - the first son of Shiv and Parvati - is prayed to on this occasion along with the sun.


Kartikeya is all-benevolent and said to have the power to fulfil all desires. Therefore, people undertake this fast for children, or for their own health or wealth. They continue doing it year after year until the boon is granted. The sun is also given as much importance since it is the sustainer of life and becomes god in the Hindu way of life; both join in to bless the faithful during this week.

As said before, preparations begin from the day after Diwali, which is Parva of the waxing moon of Kartik, and houses are cleaned and whitewashed, if they have not already been for Diwali. In the villages fresh cowdung is applied to the courtyards.


During this week people refrain from telling lies, smoking and gambling. They also become vegetarian for the duration, if they are non-vegetarians. A sense of purity and piousness becomes the order of the day, especially for those who keep the fast. But even those not keeping the fast, but living in the same house as people who are, should be able to feel the impact of the occasion. The main activities on the third day, known as Nahan Khan (literally eating after a bath), are cleaning the puja and putting fresh tablecloths on the tables and chowkis, and dressing up the deities. The ladies of the house, who usually keep this fast, leave the men to pursue their usual occupations outside the home without the austerity. Some men, however, do keep urats.

From the first day of Chhat onwards; the food is without garlic or onions and it must be vegetarian. There is no restriction as to the number of times one can eat. Coffee and tea are allowed all through the day. This day is more in preparation for the actual days of urat.


The next day is the day of fasting and is known as Kharna. On this day, the fast is an absolute fast without water or anything to eat, not even in the early morning; hence the food and liquids taken on the day of the Nahan Khan are the ones that will sustain one right up to the evening, thus making it a 24-hour fast in its first phase. The whole day is spent in cleaning and making arrangements for the food to be cooked for the evening. The food is usually cooked away from the main kitchen, preferably in a courtyard where a chulha is made out of bricks; some cowdung is applied onto it and the surrounding area, since cowdung is supposedly very clean and pure. No one is allowed near the chulha with shoes on and no one can cook until they have bathed and worn absolutely clean clothes. The utensils used for cooking should be new; if they are not, then they are washed with gobar (cowdung) or mitti (dry mud) to make them pure. The fire lit in the chulha is of wood. A stack of wood is required to feed the fire and keep the heat even. This practice, however, is for the very orthodox, or those who live in houses with grounds or courtyards. When one lives in a flat with limited space for cooking, it is best to cook in the kitchen after cleaning the stove and the kitchen thoroughly to give a sense of cleanliness and sanctity. If you require a utensil for your kitchen, buying it during this period gives a sense of doing the right thing and gives the family something to think and talk about. The food cooked for the evening is kheer and puri. The wheat for the puri could be freshly ground from wheat bought specially for the urat; otherwise buy a new packet of wheat flour if you want to go along with conventions. In Bihar such rules still catch the imagination of the people, and as long as it does not make for tension and unpleasantness, there is no harm in treating the festival in this special manner.

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