Patna, November 19
Lakhs of men and women across Bihar paid tributes to the setting sun on Sunday as part of Chhath, the state’s most popular festival which has now gained fame far and wide.
Chhath devotees, those who observe a grueling 36-hour fast, stood in waist-deep water, some choosing deep vessels atop roofs but many others walking long distances to reach ghats of rivers, lakes or ponds.
Many men carried wicker baskets on their heads, heavy with items used in the ritual worship while the more adventurous ones chose to cover the distance prostrating on their bare chests (dandvat).
All roads seemed to lead to the Ganga in the state capital where devotees and their family members burst into loud chants of “Har Har Gange” when Chief Minister Nitish Kumar went past on a steamer, waving at the citizens while on his annual vigil.
The chief minister made it a point, before embarking on his steamer tour, to offer worship to the “Astaachalgami Surya”, as the setting sun is known in local parlance, at his official residence where devotees from among his close family members were observing the austerities.
Kumar, who has during his long tenure been on good terms with Raj Bhavan, had taken along Governor Rajendra Arlekar, who took over in February this year and got a chance to experience first-hand the fervour of the festival to worship the Sun.
No untoward incident was reported from any of the 100 ghats along the Ganga in Patna district where 5,000 security personnel helped the devotees complete their puja safely before all of them returned home hoping that “Chhathi maiya” would fulfil their wishes, which for many this year included India’s victory in the World Cup.
“We rushed to the ghat after watching the first 10 overs on TV. We are getting updates on our mobile phones. We look forward to celebrations of India’s victory tomorrow morning,” said several children at Digha ghat.
Their optimism was shared by Tejashwi Yadav, the state’s Deputy Chief Minister, a former cricketer himself, who told reporters: “Having lost no match so far in the tournament India will certainly continue with its winning streak”.
Yadav’s father Lalu Prasad, the RJD president, expressed a more hard-nosed wish, saying “I pray to Chhathi Maiya for the success of our efforts to defeat the BJP in Lok Sabha polls”.
The four-day festivities began on Friday with “Nahaay Khaay”, when devotees and their family members take sattvic food after a ritual bath, followed by “Kharna” a day later when “prasad” of rice pudding and rotis is shared with family and friends.
The festivities will conclude Monday morning, with salutations to the rising sun, after which devotees break their fast with “thekua”, a fried pancake sweetened with jaggery, to which the festival owes its popularity among children.
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