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Millions pray to mark Chhath festival

Millions pray to mark Chhath festival in Bihar

Millions of people, rich and poor, across Bihar, mostly women, fasted, sang folk songs and offered prayers to the setting sun to celebrate the festival of Chhath on Tuesday. The four-day Chhath began on Sunday when devotees took a dip in rivers, a tradition known as 'nahai khai'. That was followed by the ritual of 'kharna' on Monday when sweet dishes were prepared before fasting began. Since early Tuesday busy roads, narrow lanes, river banks, ponds and other water bodies have been cleaned and made ready for the performance of pujas. "All roads leading to the riverbanks and other water bodies have been cleaned and decorated for the devotees to make offering ('arghya') to the sun," a police official said here. Devotees, locally known as 'varti', wore new clothes and sang folk songs as they prayed and lit small diyas, or earthen lamps, that were set afloat on rivers, lakes and other water bodies. Married women observe fast for 36 hours during the festival. Devotees traditionally offer wheat, milk, sugarcane, bananas and coconuts to the Sun. This year's Chhath has a special significance for Lalu Prasad, who heads the Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD), his wife Rabri Devi, and the rest of the family because of the remarkable success of the party in the assembly election 2015. Rabri Devi offered prayers at a special pond inside her official residence at 10 Circular Road here, helped by Lalu Prasad and her two sons. According to RJD leaders here, Chhath has anyway been a big family get together for the Lalu-Rabri family. Chhath celebrations at the residence of Nitish Kumar, Bihar chief minister and Lalu's partner in the resounding electoral success, have been on a much lower key. The rituals are being performed by Kumar's sister and sister-in-law (the wife of his elder brother). In Patna, dozens of ghats or riverside bathing platforms on the banks of the Ganges have been given last-minute facelift by the administration and volunteers. The authorities also designated over two dozen 'ghats' in Patna as unsafe and dangerous. Chhath is associated with faith, purity and devotion to the Sun. Colourful idols of the Sun riding his chariot with seven horses, a new attraction this year, are being sold at places where devotees gather. The festival will conclude on Wednesday with devotees paying obeisance to the rising sun. Chhath is celebrated six days after Diwali.