Road filled with devotees for Chhath Puja
All roads in the city led to the Ganga on Tuesday as lakhs of people made a beeline to the myriad ghats, all sparkling clean and decked up to receive the devotees taking part in Chhath Puja. As the multitudes thronged the ghats to offer 'Arghya' to the setting sun, a ritual of the puja, they were greeted by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who waved to them from a steamer cruising through the river.
Kumar who conducts survey of the ghats on the occasion every year, was joined by cabinet colleagues like Road Transport Minister Nand Kishore Yadav besides poll strategist-turned-politician Prashant Kishor, who has emerged as one of Kumar's most trusted aides within a short while. Upon completion of his inspection, Kumar said,
"We all are dependent upon nature for our survival and the sun is the primordial source of energy. The festival is an acknowledgment of this fact. I feel satisfied that all departments have worked in perfect coordination for making the arrangements." "I would also congratulate the common people who have been demonstrating amazing discipline and sense of order, which like every year is voluntary and not enforced.
If we are able to continue this beyond the festivities, our society shall be transformed," the Chief Minister added. Patna roads, which are otherwise notorious for huge traffic snarls, looked different on Tuesday as cars, bikes and other modes of transport gave way to devotees walking on foot and carrying baskets on their heads containing offerings to be made to the Sun god.
The more enthusiastic ones went through the arduous ritual of prostrating on the ground after every single step while undertaking the journey to the ghats. The fervour that had started building up with rituals like "Nahay Khay" on Sunday, followed by "Kharna" on Monday, hit a crescendo on Tuesday as the "Chhath vratees", who observe a rigorous 36-hour fast and refuse to take even a sip of water as part of mandatory discipline for the occasion, made their journey to the ghats singing hymns in praise of the sun god in local dialects like Bhojpuri, Maithili and Magahi.
The festivities will conclude on Wednesday when the devotees would re-converge on the banks of the Ganga, standing in waist-deep water, and offer "Arghya" to the rising sun. The "Chhath vratees" thereafter break their fast consuming "Prasad" offered to the Sun god and his mythological sister, "Chhathi Maiya", the main item being "thekua" a pancake made of wheat flour, shredded coconuts and jaggery.
While not all members of a family observe the grueling 36-hour-long "nirjala" fast, there are a number of austerities which every relative of a Chhath Vratee is required to observe for the four-day period.
These include complete abstinence from food containing onions and garlic, meat, tobacco and other intoxicants. The festivities present the police personnel with a daunting task as they guide the congregation of a vast crowd of women and children at the river banks through makeshift pathways.
They remain on their toes as nearly a score of people were killed in a stampede in 2012. Besides, teams of National Disaster Response Force and its state counterpart, armed with lifejackets and inflatable boats, have been patrolling the ghats to deal with any eventuality.
"Water ambulances" with doctors and paramedics on board are also patrolling the ghats. Senior officials were seen making appeals through loudspeakers urging people to refrain from spreading any rumour that may trigger panic and lead to a stampede.
(With inputs from agencies.)