Chhath celebrated in Bihar but the shadow of the pandemic looms large

·2-min read

Patna, Nov 20 (PTI) Homes got converted into make-shift 'ghats' across Bihar on Friday when people of the state paid obeisance to the setting sun as part of 'Chhath' festivities while observing restrictions in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Temporary ponds were dug inside courtyards or, in multi- storied buildings, deep vessels placed on rooftops for the 'vratees' (those observing austerities, including a grueling 36-hour-long fast) to stand in knee-deep water while offering the prayers.

The more enthusiastic ones still preferred to visit the ghats along the Ganges, travelling miles on foot, though the crowds and the hubbub was a fraction of what is seen annually during the four-day festivities, arguably the most popular among residents of the state cutting along caste and religious lines.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar offered 'arghya' to the 'astachalgami surya' (setting sun) at his official residence, a tradition he has been following ever since he assumed the top post a decade and a half back.

However, effects of the pandemic were all too stark as the rituals were performed with face masks on and Kumar, who is going on 70, chose to remain indoors unlike in the past when he used to take stock of the ghats from a steamer and wave at the crowds upon being greeted by chants in praise of 'Chhathi Maiya'.

Deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi is performing Chhath herself at her home town Bettiah, district headquarters of the West Champaran district.

Surrounded by relatives, Renu Devi observed the rituals associated with the festival.

The 63-year-old first women deputy chief minister of Bihar is performing chhath vrata since long.

The festivities began on Wednesday with 'Nahay khaay', when people feast on boiled rice, pulses and fritters after the customary bath. This was followed a day later by 'kharna' which is observed by partaking of 'rasiyaav' (rice pudding cooked in jaggery) as 'Prasad'.

The festivities would end Saturday morning by offering of prayers to the rising sun which would be followed by sharing of 'Prasad', most popular of these being 'thekua', a crispy pancake made of flour and jaggery, besides fruits.

Food items are prepared on earthen stoves. A unique feature of the festival is the near absence of priestly intervention, caste distinctions melting away, albeit temporarily and austerities like a vegetarian diet, sans even onion and garlic, being observed for the four-day period by even non-Hindus. PTI NAC SNS SNS