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Millions pray to sun to mark end of Chhath

Patna, Nov 20, 2012 (IANS)

A day after 18 people died in a stampede during Chhath celebrations here, millions of people across Bihar Tuesday ignored the morning chill and took a dip in rivers and other water bodies to mark the end of the four-day festival.

Devotees also ended their 36-hour fast by praying and floating lighted earthen lamps in the river. This was followed by homemade sweets and other offerings being distributed among family members, relatives and neighbours.

In this Bihar capital, the morning started on a sombre note with many remembering the 18 people, mostly women and children, who were killed during a stampede Monday evening. Thousands gathered on the banks of the Ganges here to call an end to the festival dedicated to the sun god.

Devotees, locally known as 'varti', wore new cotton clothes, and sang folk songs as they prayed to the rising sun god.

"We offered rituals and prayed to rising sun to mark the end of Chhath," said Sobha Devi, a devotee.

"At the break of dawn, we offered ritual and prayers for divine blessings. Our offering and prayers to the rising sun god was for well-being, prosperity and progress," said Lilavati Devi, another devotee.

The devotees had offered prayers to the setting sun Monday, she said.
The offerings comprised fruits, homemade sweets, vegetables and the first crop from the fields.

All the sweets and offerings were arranged in baskets and trays made of bamboo.
Celebrated six days after Diwali, Chhath is dedicated to the sun god. During the festival, married women observe fast for 36 hours, and devotees offer wheat, milk, sugarcane, bananas and coconuts to the sun god, who is considered the god of energy and life-force.

The festival also saw a rare show of harmony with people cutting across social barriers gathering to celebrate Chhath in villages and towns.

The festival, once limited to Bihar, is fast becoming popular across India due to the large scale migration of workers from the state.

The festival was widely celebrated in metros like Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad and states like Assam, Punjab, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and even Tamil Nadu.


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