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Four-day Chhath festival begins

Patna, Sat, 17 Nov 2012 NI Wire

Dala Chhath alias Surya Kshasti, the biggest Hindu Festival of Bihar, begins from Saturday with full devotion and commitment. For smooth celebration of the four-day festival, the administration has employed tight securities on the banks of rivers and ponds.

Though, Dala Chhath is a statewide festival, but to spreading of Biharis and Purvanchalis (the residents of east Uttar Pradesh), now it is being celebrated across the northern India.

On the very first day, hundreds of thousands of devotees, mainly married women, thronging river banks and water bodies for a ritual bath before cooking a traditional meal.

"The much-awaited Chhath has formally started with the age-old ritual of Nahai-Khai - preparing traditional food after the bath - across thousands of villages and hundreds of towns spread all over the state," an anonymous devotee busy preparing the ritual meal of boiled rice and pumpkin on a hand-made earthen hearth after a bath in the Ganga said.

"Nahai-Khai" symbolises purity and discipline, she added.

"We use only dry wood from mango trees and bamboo baskets for cooking the traditional meal on the first day of Chhath," another devotee said.

In Patna alone, hundreds of roadside vendors, mostly poor men and women, sold the items that go into the Chhath celebrations.

On Sunday, the second day of Chhath, 'kharna', another ritual, will be observed, as the sweet dish called 'kheer' is cooked and distributed among neighbours, friends and relatives.

The main offering - argya - when devotees stand waist-deep in water, offering prayers to the Sun god on the banks of rivers or other water bodies, will take place Monday.

Chhath, celebrated six days after Diwali, is a time of worship of the Sun god.

During the festival, married women observe a fast for 36 hours and devotees offer wheat, milk, sugarcane, bananas and coconuts to the sun.

The administration has set to work, along with dozens of voluntary organisations, to clean the roads leading to the banks of rivers ahead of the festival.

District authorities have declared 32 'ghats' in Patna unsafe and dangerous. There are over 70 ghats along the Ganges in Patna.

"All district magistrates have been directed by (Chief Minister) Nitish Kumar to accord top priority to the safety of devotees," an official said.

Over the years, Chhath has come to be closely identified with Bihar - on the lines of Bihu in Assam, Pongal in Tamil Nadu and the Ganesh festival in Maharashtra.

--With IANS Inputs--

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