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by univc 06 Jan 2007, 05:54
There is one Hindu festival that is uniquely Bihari, and that is the festival of Chhath. This is observed mostly by the people of North Bihar. It is devoted to the worship of the Sun God. It is, therefore, also known as SuryaShashti. The festival begins on the sixth day of the month of Kartik in the Hindu lunar calendar. This will correspond to late October to mid November, depending on the year. It is one of the holiest festivals for biharis and extends to four days. On day 1, the devotees take a cleansing dip - preferably in the holy river Ganges - and bring river water to prepare the offerings. On day 2, a fast is observed for the whole day and in late evening, the devotees, after performing a worship at home, break their fast. The offerings - typically a porridge of rice, puris (deep fried puffs of wheat flour) and bananas - are shared among family and visiting friends and relatives. Day 3 is spent in the preparation of offerings at home during the day. In the evening the devotees move to a river bank (or a pond) with the entire family and friends. There the offerings are made to the setting sun. At nightfall, the devotees along with the family and friends return home where another colorful celebration takes place. Under a canopy of sugar cane sticks, clay elephants containing earthen lamps, and containers full of the offerings, are placed. There the fire god is worshipped. The devotees maintain a strict fast without even water. Then next morning a similar procession of the devotees, family and friends, moves again to the river bank. Offerings are made to the rising sun. At the completion of the offerings, there is great celebration. The devotees break their fast and the rich offerings are made available to the family, friends, relatives and the onlookers! The offerings are also very characteristic. They are: a deep fried and sweet rolls of stone ground wheat flour, grapefruit, whole coconuts, bananas, and grains of lentils. These items are contained in small, somewhat semicircular, pans woven out of bamboo strips.

Chhat is a very colorful festival. New clothes are a must for the devotees. And the family also are dressed in their finest on the visit to the river. There is much music and a lot of singing of folk songs, both at home and on the river bank. In Patna, literally millions of people throng the banks of the river Ganges for miles. There is much gaiety even among so much piety. The streets are kept spotlessly clean by bands of volunteers, who also decorate all streets leading to the river with colorful festoons, ribbons, and banners. Loudspeakers blare chath songs all through the evening and early morning.