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Day 1: Nahaykhay (literally, bathe and eat)
On the first day of Chhath Puja, the devotees take a dip, and carry home the holy water of the river Ganga to prepare the offerings. The main worshipers who are usually the women, have only one meal on this day known as “kaddu-bhat" in some region.
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Day 2: Kharna or Lohanda (the day before Chhath)
The day before Chhath, the women worshippers observe a fast for the whole day, which ends in the evening. Just after the worship of earth, the offerings of rice delicacy, puris (deep-fried puffs of wheat flour) and bananas, are distributed among family and friends. From this day onwards, for the next 36 hours, the woman worshippers goes on a fast without water.
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Day 3: Chhath
SanjhiyaArghya (evening offerings):
The day is spent preparing the Prasad which is offered to the setting sun. The folk songs sung on the evening of Chhath reflect the culture, social structure, mythology and history of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
On the night of day three, a colorful event of Kosi is held. Lighted earthen lamps are kept under a canopy of five sugarcane sticks which signify the human body made of Panchatattva (the five great elements - earth, water, fire, air and ether). This is a symbolic ritual in Chhath Puja,. The lighted lamps signify the solar energy sustaining the human being.
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Day 4: Paarun (the day after Chhath)
The festival ends with the breaking of the fast by the women worshippers and friends visiting the houses of the devotees to receive the prashad. Witnessing Chhath being celebrated at the crack of the dawn on a river bank is a beautiful, elating spiritual experience connecting the modern Indian to his ancient cultural roots.
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