| An illuminated SP Verma Road. Pictures by Ranjeet Kumar Dey and Sachin
Tradition and merriment adorned the city to leave a sweet taste of Kharna on Sunday.
Kheer — the traditional dish on Chhath — was cooked and distributed among friends and relatives in the evening to mark the second day of the festival.
The city streets were spick-and-span, as residents took up the cleanliness work on their own. Thousands of decorative lights made a canopy over the streetlamps to make a rainbow of coloured illumination. Everywhere people were happy.
“Chhath is the worship of the Sun God. Married women observe 36-hour-long fast. Men also observe the festival and offer wheat, milk, sugarcane, bananas and coconuts to the god. It is considered to be the biggest and most sacred festival in Bihar. Everyone makes their contribution to the festival. People sweep doorsteps, as well as the streets of their neighbourhood because many walk to the ghats barefoot. All are happy in these four days,” Malti Devi, a homemaker residing at Jagdeo Path, said on Sunday.
Fruit shops on Bailey Road, Ashok Rajpath and several other places were open late on Saturday night, as devotees thronged them for the last-minute purchases. Residents ventured out on the streets in the small hours with a sense of security assured by policemen deployed at important thoroughfares.
“Crime incidents dip drastically during Chhath. Rather, people are seen helping each other. One will find youths offering milk and fruits to devotees on their way to ghats,” Gardanibagh resident Rajendra Sharma said.
Rudra Pratap Dubey, the secretary of Jan Jagaran Samiti on BNR Road, said the organisation distributed puja material like soop, sugarcane, lemon and coconut among Chhath devotees at Pathri Ghat.
On Monday evening, devotees would offer the first arghya to the Sun God by standing in waist-deep water. After the district administration declared 32 of the 72 ghats in the capital unsafe, many devotees were seen on the banks of the Ganga on Sunday to select a ghat where they would perform arghya.
“As the river has shifted several kilometres north from its original course, we cannot perform Chhath rituals at our favourite Collectorate Ghat. For over a decade we have been coming to the ghat for Chhath. This time, we will head to Kali Ghat,” said Sheela Pandey, a resident of Sheikhpura.
Patna Municipal Corporation on Sunday installed high-mast lamps at five ghats — Law College Ghat, Rani Ghat, Kadam Ghat, Gai Ghat and Khajekala Ghat.
“Commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pal inspected the ghats twice on Sunday. He has given a few instructions regarding sanitation. Changing rooms have been constructed at all the ghats. A sanitation inspector, along with five labourers, has been deputed at all the ghats,” said a senior officer of the civic body.
Milk flows like water
When it comes to Chhath, residents of the capital don’t mind spending a few extra bucks on essential items.
On Sunday, the day of Kharna, regular buyers as well as Chhath devotees, purchased milk in abundance despite a rise of about Rs 5 per packet compared to last year.
The sale of milk in the city is usually around 3 lakh litres per day. But on Saturday and Sunday, around 5 lakh litres were sold on an average per day. The milk outlet owners claimed there had been a 10 per cent increase in the sale compared to the corresponding days in 2011.
Rajesh Kumar, the owner of a Sudha Dairy outlet on Boring Road, said he sold 1,100 litres of milk on Nahay Khay (Saturday). Till 12noon on Sunday, Kumar had sold 900 litres of milk. “There has been a 10 per cent increase in milk sale this year,” said Kumar.
Milk is important for observing Chhath. Devotees use it for making prasad and also while offering arghya to the Sun God. “Devotees buy milk in large volume. That is why our sale increases during Chhath,” said Kumar, who was seen handling at least 10 customers at one time at his outlet.
Mamta Das, a Chhath observer, who was jostling to buy milk at Kumar’s outlet, said: “On Sunday, I bought 5 litres of milk and 1kg ghee for Kharna. On Monday, I am planning to buy 3 litres milk for arghya. Milk prices have shot up in the past few months but it cannot deter devotees from buying milk during Chhath. The festival comes once in a year and we cannot compromise on buying the essential items because of increase in prices.”
Sudhir Kumar Sinha, the managing director of Patna Dairy Project, said: “This year, we have made arrangements for 10 lakh litres of milk. We are expecting to sell the entire milk in the last two days of Chhath. Usually, we sell around 6 lakh litres of milk in two days. Ghee is the second most sought-after product during Chhath. We are expecting to sell around 60,000kg ghee during the festival.”