A rare display of social harmony on Chhath in Bihar

November 4th, 2008 - 8:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna, Nov 4 (IANS) It was an occasion for all - rich and poor, lower and upper castes. A rare show of harmony was on display when people cutting across social barriers gathered Tuesday to celebrate Chhath, one of the most popular Hindu festivals in Bihar.Hundreds of thousands of devotees, mostly women, attired in new colourful clothes, sang folk songs and offered prayers to the sun god in the evening on the banks of rivers, at tanks and ponds, and other water bodies in the state.

And it was all happening in a peaceful manner to mark the festival - associated with truth, non-violence, forgiveness and compassion - in Bihar, which otherwise is infamous for its caste-ridden and semi-feudal society.

In Patna, all roads led to the banks of the Ganga, ponds and other water bodies a few hours before the sunset, and people jostled to get a space to pray.

The roads to more than 60 river banks and other water bodies were decorated to welcome the devotees paying obseisance to the sun god for “giving bounties of life on earth”.

“Entire Patna was decorated like a bride and cleaned like never before,” said Guddu Mahto, a resident of Lodipur.

Residents in most colonies were seen busy cleaning roads and whitewashing walls. Makeshift marquees were erected at many places since Monday.

At places, where the river is far away, people congregated near hundreds of small ponds and water tanks for their prayers.

Similar scenes were reported from from Gaya, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Purnia districts of the state.

The four-day long celebrations started Sunday with shopping and preparation of traditional sweets. A large number of people, mostly married women, thronged the river banks to bathe before preparing simple vegetarian food on handmade earthen hearths.

The devotees Monday prepared sweet dishes as part of the festival, celebrated by Hindus six days after Diwali, the festival of light.

The festival concludes Wednesday with devotees worshipping the rising sun.

During the course of the festival, married women observe a fast for 36 hours and devotees offer wheat, milk, sugar cane, bananas and coconuts to the sun god.

Colourful idols of the sun god riding a chariot drawn by seven horses, a new attraction this year, were sold near the riverbanks.

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