KMC’s decision to lock up Rani Pokhari during Chhath disappoints worshippersOrganising committee blames the city for not providing space to celebrate the festival this year even though the reconstruction of the pond is over.
The Hindu festival of Chhath, observed mostly in Nepal’s Tarai region and in the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, has now become popular in Kathmandu Valley as well, with many people from the Hill community also observing the festival of late.
On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered on the banks of the Valley’s rivers, including Bagmati and Bishnumati, and ponds like Kamal Pokhari that were decorated with colourful lights for the occasion.
Hindus dedicate Chhath Pooja to the Sun god and his wives Usha and Sangya (Sandhya), thanking them for blessing the bounties of life on earth and praying for wishes.
In Kathmandu, the Rani Pokhari remained closed for the festival this year, although the city officials had earlier given a green signal to open the pond for the occasion.
Nabin Manandhar, spokesperson for the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, said that this time the city did not open the ancient pond fearing security threats to the worshippers.
“This time, the pond is full of water, around 5.5 feet deep, and we could not take the risk lest anyone falls in it,” Manandhar said. “It’s only the Balgopaleshwar temple that comes under the KMC’s jurisdiction, and the government has not handed over the Rani Pokhari to KMC.”
However, Anad Gupta, former general secretary of the Mahaparva Chhath Organising Committee, blamed the KMC for not providing space to celebrate the festival this year even though the reconstruction of the pond that was damaged in the 2015 earthquake is already complete.
“The City opened Rani Pokhari during Bhai Tika but it didn’t give permission to us,” Gupta said. “This is a discriminatory act.”
The City had opened the Balgopaleshwar Temple in the middle of the pond for Bhai Tika last Thursday.
Gupta added that there are many Rauniyar families and people from Tarai who have lived in Ason area for centuries, and they did Chhath puja on their own verandas.
According to Gupta, the committee organised the festival at Rani Pokhari before the earthquake but has not been able to organise the worship there.
Rani Pokhari’s restoration, which started in January 2016, was fraught with controversies. The project went through many failed starts and restarts, causing work delays and cost overruns.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari inaugurated the restored Rani Pokhari in the third week of October 2020.
“We had expected a grand celebration this time, but that could not happen,” Gupta said.