Chhath Puja celebrated in the City of Dreams, with all the rituals and devotion

Mumbai, November 21: Chhath Puja is one of the most important festivals for the people of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand, who worship the Sun God ‘Surya’ and his sister ‘Chhathi Maiya’ for four days. Devotees offer prayers, fast, and perform various rites at the banks of rivers, ponds, or other water bodies.

But what is it like to celebrate Chhath Puja in Mumbai, the city of dreams, where millions of migrants from Bihar and other states live and work? According to a study done in 2009, there over one million Biharis live in Mumbai. Mostly they live in Ghatkopar, Malad, Jogeshwari and Andheri.

Some of the popular places where Chhath Puja is celebrated in Mumbai are Juhu Beach, Powai Lake, Versova Beach, and Gorai Creek, all on the west side of the city. Actually, it is celebrated twice a year, in the months of ‘Chaitra and Kartika’, corresponding to March and October-November respectively, with the main rituals observed on the third day.

We visited Juhu on Saturday, the third day of “Chhath Mahaparv,” long with more than 5 lakh people, who come to Juhu beach to celebrate this festival, the highest number for any of these spots.  For the onlooker, this can be an overwhelming experience, especially the sight of the decorations and preparations of the “ghaat” (the beach, in the absence of a river bank) and all the devotees singing the folk song of Chhath Puja.

Kosiya (Sugarcane) is one of the most glowing and beautiful events during Chhath Pooja

Ranju Devi, 40, who lives in Thane and originally belongs to Madhubani, Bihar, said that she and her family have been celebrating ‘Chhath Mahaparv’ here for the last 10 years. Before that, they had celebrated Chhath in their native place for three years.” There are no issues celebrating Chhath in Mumbai city; we perform all the rituals as we used to in our hometown,” she added.

Similarly, Kavita Ganesh Kamat, 35, who is originally from Darbhanga,  said that her family have been celebrating ‘Chhath Mahaparv’ in Mumbai for the last 12 years. There are quite a few differences in terms of performing rituals, but they do all that they can and celebrate it with love and happiness.

The huge crowds are definitely a point of stress for the police. At Juhu Beach, they had no time for questions, making it clear that we reported what we observed. One of those we spoke to, said, “We don’t know anything; just go and ask the devotees and other people who have come to witness the festival; they will tell you more clearly and accurately.”

For many Biharis living in Mumbai, Chhath Puja is a way of reconnecting with their roots and culture. They take leave from their jobs, travel to the nearest water body, and join the thousands of other devotees who gather there to observe the festival. They also invite their friends and neighbors, who may belong to different religions or regions, to join them in the celebrations and share their food and joy.

Anita Sahani, 30, and her sister-in-law Parvati Sahani, 35, whose native place is in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, had said, “They have been celebrating ‘Chhath Mahaparv’ in Mumbai for the last 15 years, although they have celebrated this festival in their hometown quite a few times too, they don’t see any differences in celebrating it in Mumbai or Varanasi. “We also use handmade ‘Chulha’ (stove) to make all the prasaad, which is a very important ritual,” she added.

Report by PG Journalism Students of St Pauls Institute (SPICE), Mansi Bhaktwani & Sidhant Shekhar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *