Chhatt, also known as Surya Shashti, is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in order to thank the Hindu Sun God, Surya, for sustaining life on Earth and also to request for granting certain wishes. The rigorous rituals of this festival are observed over a period of four days. These rituals include holy bathing, fasting and refraining from drinking water(Vratta), standing in water for long period of time, offering prashad(prayer offerings) and aragh to the setting and rising sun.
The Sun is believed to be the God of energy and of the life-force and therefore it is worshiped during this festival to bring about well being, prosperity and progress in life. According to Hindu mythology, worshipping the Sun is believed to help cure several diseases, including leprosy, and also it ensures a long and prosperous life of family members, friends, and elders.
Chhath puja is performed on Karthik Shukala Shashti; it is the sixth day of the month of kartik in the Hindu calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, it falls in the month of October or November. Chhath is a ritual bathing festival during which a worshiper refrains from the main household for four days, observes ritual purity and sleeps on the floor on a single blanket. No pandit is required in this festival.
The devotees offer prayers to the setting sun, and then the rising sun in celebrating its glory as the cycle of birth starts with death.
Once a family starts performing Chhat Puja, they become duty bound to perform it every year and to pass it on to following generations. It can be skipped only if there happens to be a death in the family that year.
The prasad offering, during Chhat Puja, include sweets and fruits in small bamboo winnows. The food is cooked without salt, onions or garlic. Non vegetarian food is prohibited during the Chhat festival season.
Chhat puja is performed in the regions including northeast region of India, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Delhi, Mumbai and Mauritius. However, it is not exclusive to these places.