Yamuna Chhath, an Introduction
Yamuna Chhath celebrates the descent of the holy river Yamuna on earth. This day, thus, commemorates the birth of the river Goddess and is regarded as her Jayanthi. Chhath refers to the sixth day and the occasion of Yamuna Chhath is observed on the sixth, Sashti day of Shukla Paksha, the waxing phase of the Moon, in the month of Chaitra (March–April). This day also happens to be the sixth day of the Chaitra Navarathri celebrations. Yamuna Chhath is observed with fervor and zeal in the northern parts of the country, in the regions made fertile by the river and specially in the towns of Mathura and Brindavan in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Importance of River Yamuna
Yamuna is a holy river, held as sacred as other holy rivers like Ganga, Brahmaputra, Saraswathi and Godavari. This is the principal tributary of the great river Ganga. Yamuna starts flowing from the wide-spread Himalayan mountains originating from the Yamunothri glaciers that are located in the south-western slopes of the Banderpooch peaks. Beginning its journey from the state of Uttarakand, Yamuna descends to the plains and after covering a distance of about 1400 kilometres, it merges with the holy Ganga at Allahabad. This confluence is regarded highly sacred and is known as Triveni Sangam, and this remains the venue for the grand celebration of Kumbh Mela, held every 12 years. Mythology regards Yamuna as the daughter of Surya Dev, the Sun God and the sister of Yama, the God of death. For this reason, Yamuna is also called as Yami, Yama’s sister.
Significance of Yamuna Chhath
However, Yamuna’s greatest significance lies in her intimate association with Lord Krishna. Yamuna is linked very closely with the life and childhood exploits of Krishna and in fact, mythology regards Yamuna as the dear lover and the very consort of Krishna. Hence, she is held in high esteem by the people of Brajbhoomi, the region in the state of Uttar Pradesh through which the Yamuna flows, and on whose banks Krishna took birth and played his numerous childhood pranks. Hence, men, women and children in the towns of Mathura and Brindavan, which are located on Yamuna’s banks, and also those from the surrounding areas observe Yamuna Chhath with intense devotion and faith, and pray to Goddess Yamuna and her consort Lord Krishna for their welfare and prosperity.
Yamuna Chhath — Rituals and Celebrations
People living in areas lying on the banks of Yamuna start the auspicious Yamuna Chhath day, with a sacred bath in the holy river. Some repeat the ritual at sunset too. This is believed to purify them, both internally and externally. The bathing Ghats are accordingly cleaned and decorated for the occasion. They then worship the river waters, offering flowers to them. Those living at places that are away, purify themselves at their homes, taking the water as Yamuna jal. Prayers are then offered at home to the Goddess at the auspicious time of the day. Lord Krishna, her eternal lover, is also worshipped along with devotion. Many burst crackers as a form of celebration. Some observe a 24-hour-fast, starting it in the morning and ending it the next day, after the morning puja. Sweets and other special offerings are made to Yamuna, and bhajans are sung in her praise. While the Prasad is shared with friends and relatives, food is donated to the poor and charity is done for the needy.