Many Muslim families in Bihar are currently busy making chulhas, or earthen stoves, used to prepare the holy offering for the Chhath festival of the Hindus, in yet another example of communal amity in India.
Mohammad Nizam, along with his wife and children, has made the special stoves for Hindu devotees who use it during the four-day Chhath that began on Wednesday. His family is one of a dozen Muslim families engaged in making earthen chulhas in Patna and elsewhere.
"We made the earthen chulhas with great care as they are being used for Chhath. We make substantial money too as the devotees don't bargain much," said Nizam, who is in his 40s.
He is selling the stoves for Rs 25-40 each at Daroga Prasad Rai Path in Patna.
During Chhath, a large number of people, mostly married women, throng the banks of rivers, including the Ganga, Punpun, Gandak and Kosi, for a bath before preparing vegetarian food on the hand-made stoves. Married women also observe a fast during the festival.
Similarly, Lal Mohammad, Salim Mohammad Shafique and Mohammad Buttu are eagerly waiting to sell chulhas to Hindu devotees who worship the sun god during Chhath.
"We began making the chulhas a week ahead of Chhath to sell them on time," Lal Mohammad said.
The Muslim families buy clay from farmers in nearby rural areas at around Rs 800 per tractor and distribute it among themselves for making the chulhas.
"We consider chulhas pure and it is an age-old tradition to prepare cooked offerings in them for Chhath. We are thankful to the Muslim families which make and sell these chulhas to us," said Kanchan Bala, a middle-aged Hindu woman.
Ashok Singh, a businessman, said hand-made stoves were rare in urban centres like Patna. "They are available to Hindus during Chhath thanks to the Muslim families," he said.
Interestingly, Chhath is celebrated by Muslims too in several villages of the state.
Besides preparing and selling chulhas, many Muslims have also volunteered to clean up rivers, ponds and streets for the festive occasion. They are helping Hindus sanitise riverbanks in Patna, Gaya, Muzaffarpur and Darbhanga.