In Patna in the state of Bihar, thousands gather along the embankment of the Ganga, at the break of dawn, to pray to the Sun and Sasthi Devi (often referred to as Chhath maiya) for endowing us with bounties of life on the earth. The four day festival of Chhath Puja involves plenty of fasting, feasting, and dips in the holy waters of the River Ganga. Fasting is an essential aspect of this festival, as it is considered a purification ritual. Chhath Puja or Surya Sashthi occurs six days after Diwali in the Kartik month (October – November) of the Hindu calender. Chhath Festival is mostly celebrated in Bihar.
It is considered to be one of the oldest forms of nature worship, Chhath Puja is mentioned in the Rig Veda as well as the Mahabharata. In the later, Draupadi, the wife of the Pandava brothers, is advised by Sage Dhaumya to perform the puja to help the Pandavas regain their Kingdom.
It is believed that the festival also honors Surya’s wives – Usha and Protyusha, with the former being referred to as Chhath Maiya (mother goddess). While Usha means the first morning rays, Pratyusha means the last rays of the sun. Prayers are therefore offered both at sunrise and sunset during the festival.