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Home away from home

delhi Updated: Oct 24, 2009 22:43 IST
Vijaita Singh

For the past 10 years, the Anands have been coming to Boat Club at India Gate to offer prayers to the Sun god on Chath Puja. Natives of Bihar’s Madhubani district, the couple celebrate the festival with equal fervour and pomp back home.

“We want to keep the tradition alive. Delhi is our home now so we celebrate it with the same enthusiasm,” said Swami Ganeshanand, a yoga guru.

On Saturday, thousands of Poorvanchalis — people from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh — thronged the banks of the Yamuna, the Boat Club and an artificial lake at Mongolpuri to offer arghya (prayers) to the Sun god.

Chath, which falls on the sixth day of Diwali, is a four-day-long festival where devotees go without food and water for 36 hours and offer prayers twice — at dusk and dawn.

The devotees follow an austere lifestyle and the person performing the puja takes a holy dip. The fast is ended by eating thekua (sweets made of flour, dry fruits, ghee and coconut).

This year, Chath was celebrated at 29 ghats (embankments) in Delhi and, according to conservative estimates, Rs 80 lakh was spent on preparations.

For Dr Suresh Singh, a retired professor, it was a revelation. “This is the first time I am in Delhi on this occasion and was pleasantly surprised to see so many people,” said Singh.

Amod Kanth, a former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer said: “The festival is becoming a binding force among Poorvanchalis across the city.”

West Delhi MP Mahabal Mishra said more than 20 lakh people celebrate Chath in Delhi.

“Initially, Poorvanchalis would go to Bihar to celebrate the festival, as the atmosphere wasn’t conducive here. Now that the government has made adequate arrangements, the number of people performing the puja has risen manifold in the past ten years,” Mishra said.

More than 600 policemen have been deployed for the festival that ends on Sunday morning. Traffic jams were witnessed in some parts of the city on Saturday.