Chhath unites hills and plains peopleIt is Tuesday evening, and Kamal Pokhari is echoing with Chhati Maya hymn. Roshi Giri, a permanent resident of Naradevi, is preparing to worship the setting sun at the pond along with her son, daughter, and husband including 14 relatives.
It is Tuesday evening, and Kamal Pokhari is echoing with Chhati Maya hymn. Roshi Giri, a permanent resident of Naradevi, is preparing to worship the setting sun at the pond along with her son, daughter, and husband including 14 relatives.
Like Giri’s family, hundreds of hilly people in Kathmandu celebrated the Chhath on Tuesday, the main day of the four-day festival.
In a sign of religious harmony between the people living in the hills and the plains, a large number of Hindus congregate at the annual festival.
Traditionally, ethnic groups from the Terai region such as Tharu and Madhesis celebrate Chhath with fervor like the people from of Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh along Nepal border.
Chhath is an ancient Hindu Vedic festival historically celebrated in Nepal’s Madhesi region and the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh.
Hindus dedicate Chhath Pooja to the Sun and his wives Usha and Sangya or Sandhya, thanking them for blessing the bounties of life on earth, and to pray for granting them certain wishes.
Devotees observe the rituals of the festival over four days. They include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water, standing in water for long periods, prayer offerings and arghya to the setting and rising sun.
People visiting the banks of Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers in the Valley and ponds like Kamal Pokhari on Tuesday were happy to observe hill families like the Giris celebrate Chhath with zeal matching Hindus from Terai.
“We arrived here six years ago,” Roshi Giri said. “My husband and I stay on the pond’s shore throughout the night, lighting an oil lamp, and then return home only after worshipping the rising sun.” Giri said she is fasting for good health and prosperity of her family and relatives.
Giri’s daughter, Ritu, 22, said the family began celebrating Chhath after one of their neighbours from Terai introduced the nuances of the festival. “Since then, we have been performing the rituals ourselves,” Ritu said. “We feel real bonding and harmony with people around us when we celebrate Chhath because the ritual is performed together and it is very close to the water, bringing us positive vibes,” said Ritu.
Pushpa Shrestha, who moved to Kathmandu from Gorkha five years ago, said she had never heard of Chhath. After observing the festival’s rituals in the last few years, she connected with the festival and has been celebrating it since then. “This festival brings together families from various castes and class,” she said.
Harka Bishaw, a police inspector at Kamal Pokhari police circle, who has been in charge of managing the crowd for the past three years, said that at least 40 percent of the total worshippers are from the hill community.
“I have seen a significant rise in hill people taking part in Chhath here,” said Bishaw. Over 7,000 people celebrated Chhath in Kamal Pokhari on Tuesday, he said, which included devotees who used to celebrate the festival in Rani Pokhari, but moved here after the earthquake damaged it extensively in 2015.
Some cultural observers say the festival has been a bridge between two distinct communities in recent years.
A heritage scholar from Bhaktapur Om Dhaubhadel said, “Although we have different languages, culture, and ways of life, people from the hills adopting the Chhath festival of Terai sends a message that Nepalis are united and they are constantly seeking for unity in diversity.”