Police remove Subernarekha ghat markers on Sunday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Two sluice gates of Chandil Dam have been opened, entry of heavy vehicles into the steel city barred for the next two days and use of muscle and money power to reserve ghats curbed to allow devotees a pious and peaceful ambience for the main Chhath festivities, beginning Monday.
There are some 40 Subernarekha ghats in and around Jamshedpur, where 600,000 vratis (devotees on fast) are expected to offer arghya to the Sun God and worship his consort Usha, better known as Chhathi Maiya.
However, the banks have been choking on festive paraphernalia ever since Durga Puja immersions last month. Dhalbhum SDO Subodh Kumar, who conducted an inspection of some of the banks on Saturday, said the Chandil reservoir gates were opened as routine on Sunday, but it sprayed clean the accumulated filth.
“Water from the dam reached the ghats late in the evening. It resulted in a rise in the level of Subernarekha, thereby washing away the litter on its banks. The measure has been taken by the water resources department for the convenience of Chhath vratis,” he said, adding that opening the sluice gates had served a dual purpose.
It is a common practice among devotees to reserve worshipping places on river ghats with improvised markers like sticks, poles, ropes, et al. Some even hire local goons to keep vigil against encroachment by other devotees. “The force of the water has washed away all markers. The banks are open to all again,” the SDO said.
A section of Chhath vratis is understandably unhappy.
“We had cleaned and marked a spot on the banks of Subernarekha to avoid the maddening crowd of devotees. But, cold water has been poured on all our efforts and planning. We will have to face an ugly situation tomorrow on the swamped ghats,” said Ashok Singh, a railway official.
Rambabu Singh, secretary of Jamshedpur Durga Puja Kendriya Samiti, said he was being flooded with calls on why the water level of the river had increased. “Marking ghats is a common practice. The population has increased and people need to do something to observe rituals without having to jostle for space.”
It is for this struggle that nowadays many perform Chhath rituals at artificial water reservoirs. While some flock to the Sun Temple in Sidhgora, others erect water tubs on their terrace.
At Shashtrinagar Block No. 3, residents even dug up a pond two years ago. “Reaching the riverbank for rituals is quite a challenge. We had solid ground nearby. We dug a 3ft pit and layered it with concrete. We have been performing Chhath puja here for two years now,” said Umesh Singh, a trader and resident of Shahshtrinagar.
Vratis at Ashiana Woodlands in Pardih are smarter. They offer arghya in a swimming pool on their premises. “River water is anyway polluted these days. Some 15 of us perform rituals at the pool, which is far more clean,” said Usha Singh, a resident.
Devotees, however, welcomed the administrative decision to bar entry and exit of heavy vehicles on November 19 (Monday) and 20 (Tuesday), besides deploying adequate policemen for the festival.