Chhath Puja, an ancient Hindu festival, is celebrated elaborately in Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. This year the day falls on 17 November, i.e., today.
The auspicious festival is celebrated to thank the Sun God 'Surya' for sustaining life on earth and to pray for the well-being, prosperity and progress of one's family.
Chhath Puja is also observed in other places like Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Delhi, Mumbai, Nepal and Mauritius.
The festival, which also worships Chhathi Maiya or Goddess Usha, an ancient Vedic goddess personification of "dawn", is performed on the sixth day of Kartika in the lunar calendar. Chhath Puja mostly falls after the festival of Diwali.
The rituals of the Chhath Puja are quite rigorous, with devotees observing fast for 36 hours.
Devotees offer their prayers to the setting sun and the rising sun, as to celebrate the glory of the cycle of birth which starts with death.
The Chhath festival lasts for four days, which includes various customs, including holy bathing, fasting, abstaining from drinking water (vratha), standing in water for long period of time and offering prasad and prayer to the Sun as it rises and sets.
Chhath Puja devotees are also expected to be pure at heart and give up luxurious lifestyle and follow a low-key one during its course.
In Hinduism, Sun God Surya is considered as the god of all life-force and energy, which is why worshipping Surya is considered to cure many diseases, including leprosy.
The Sun God is also said to ensure the longevity and prosperity of family members, friends and elders.
Check out the above slideshow to send picture messages of Chhath Puja to your beloved ones.