Millions of people, mostly women, across Bihar fasted, sang devotional folk songs and offered prayers on Monday to the setting Sun to mark the four-day Chhath Puja - the most popular Hindu festival in the state.
Devotees, locally known as 'varti'
(fasting women), wore new
cotton saris, sang folk songs as they prayed to the Sun god and lit small 'diyas'
(earthen lamps) that were set afloat on river waters, in ponds, lakes and other water bodies.
"We offered first argya (prayers) by standing waist-deep in water, to the setting Sun on the banks of rivers or other water bodies, including ponds and makeshift water tanks. It will be followed by second and last argya on Tuesday morning to the rising Sun," Anita Devi, a devotee in Patna, said.
There was a festive mood across the city. Busy roads to narrow lanes, and river banks, ponds and makeshift water tanks had been cleaned and decorated with flowers for the occasion.
The four-day-long Chhath Puja began on Saturday with 'nahai khai' (bath and food) when devotees took a dip in the water bodies before preparing traditional food.
It was followed by the ritual of 'kharna' (kheer feast) on Sunday when sweet dishes were prepared and distributed among relatives and friends.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar and his cabinet colleagues preferred to spend the day celebrating the Chhath with their families.
In the evening, Nitish Kumar personally inspected some ghats (built-up banks) of Ganga, like the Patna College Ghat, Anta Ghat and Gai Ghat before the main prayers. The chief minister was seen seeking blessings from the 'vartis'.
Former chief ministers Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi celebrated Chhath in New Delhi.
The festival also saw a rare show of harmony with people cutting across social barriers gathering to celebrate Chhath in villages and towns.
Celebrated six days after Diwali, Chhath is dedicated to the Sun god. During the festival, married women observe fast for 36 hours, and devotees offer wheat, milk, sugarcane, bananas and coconuts to the Sun god.
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