Nahai-khai Tradition Associated With Chhath Puja
Image Credit: The nahai-khai prasad | Instagram - @priti_kanth_lal

Chhath puja is a very important festival in the entire of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. Millions of devotees celebrate this festival that goes on for 4 auspicious days and hence, it holds a special kind of importance for capturing the faith and attention of millions of devotees. It is actually an ode to the nature, the sun, the water that keep us alive. Such a beautiful festival with scientific reasoning and several awe-inspiring traditions make chhath a marquee festival.

Now, as a Bengali girl born and brought up in Ranchi, I imbibed both the cultures. I was as excited for Durga puja as I was for chhath every year. For 5 days, no one in my typical non-vegetarian Bengali household would as much as have even onion and garlic. We would eat the nahai-khai, kharna prasad and accompany our neighbours to the ghat who celebrated chhath in a grand manner. So, the festival has had a huge importance in my life. One thing that I always loved about this festival is the variety of delicious prasad that we would get to eat during all of those days of chhath. From the nahai-khai lauki-bhaat prasad to the delicious kharna kheer and crispy, rich thekua served after the final aragh – everything is absolutely wonderful.

Chhath prasad Picture credits | Instagram - @amazing_bihar_jharkhand

The festival begins with the tradition of nahai-khai, post which the extremely difficult nirjala vrat of chhati maiya begins. This is the beginning of the fast and complete cleansing of the entire house to remove all impurities. The food that is cooked and eaten after praying to chhati maiya is the last meal of the chhat-vrati before the final argh, after 3 days. The prasad is so wholesome that it is still stuck in my memories, despite being away from Ranchi since years during chhath. The most commonly made prasad is steamed rice, lauki ki sabzi, chana dal, some dahi and a lot of shudh desi ghee. This simple meal had me waiting eagerly for this festival right after diwali ended. Th lauki is made in ghee and if you, just like me, are not very fond of the vegetable, one bite of the dish from the prasad will be enough to change your mind – just like it did mine. The chana dal is also flavourful and differently delicious, because there is no onion or garlic to change the original taste of the lentil.

In many households, there is an additional dish that is served and that is called bachka. This is crispy, thinly made pakodas out of many vegetables like potatoes, pumpkin, brinjals and bottle gourd. They add the right amount of flavour to this simple, homely prasad. To me, the nahayi-khayi prasad seems a little incomplete without bachka.

Chhath is special for so many reasons and the nahayi-khai tradition is one of them. The prasad is healthy and includes everything that the body needs before a tough fast. Our traditions, for the most part, are very scientific and accommodating.