The fragrance of agarbattis mingling with the aroma of freshly prepared thekuas, devotional songs playing over the public address system and mounds of seasonal fruits — Dhanbad divisional jail is a picture of sanctity on the eve of Chhath.
The jail administration also banned non-vegetarian food on the campus from November 14, the day after Diwali, in deference to the sentiments of 18 inmates who would be performing the Chhath rituals this year.
Preparations for the festival began on November 15 with the cleaning and painting of a big hall allocated to devotees. On Saturday, Nahay Khay was observed with devotees eating kaddu-bhat as prasad. Kharna was celebrated on Saturday with the vrati inmates preparing prasad of kheer and roti, which they offered to other prisoners.
Speaking to The Telegraph, jailer Satyendra Chaudhary said Chhath is being celebrated in Dhanbad jail for more than two decades. Last year, 12 inmates including 10 women observed Chhath, while in 2010, the number of vratis was 27.
“Though all 27 wards of the jail had been painted during Diwali, the big hall was spruced up and painted after Diwali on November 15,” said Chaudhary.
He added that all 17 men observing Chhath had been provided with a dhoti, vest and gamchha, while a sari, blouse and petticoat had been bought for the lone woman devotee. Seasonal fruits, milk, sugar, rice and flour have also been provided to them to make prasad.
“A makeshift mud oven has been constructed in the hall for making thekua and mango wood has been provided to cook prasad,” said Chaudhary, adding that thekua would be cooked by the men who will share it with the woman inmate who is in jail for a dowry related offence.
“We have a small pond in the jail which has been decorated by the inmates for offering arghya,” he said.
All inmates would congregate at the pond on Monday evening and Tuesday morning.