The four-day celebrations of Chhath Puja have begun across the country with restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Chhath, celebrated six days after Diwali, is a major festival for the people of Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The annual festival is dedicated to the Sun god.
Due to the pandemic, that has led to restrictions on all festivals this past year, Chhath will also not be celebrated in the usual way.
A key ritual of Chhath involves devotees standing in water of ponds or lakes and making offerings to the deity at sunset and sunrise.
With the pandemic still raging, this can be a cause of concern as it may spread the infection thus leading several states restricting activities.
Delhi, that declared Chhath Puja as a holiday, didn’t allow community celebration and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to the people not to celebrate at ponds and other water bodies.
“Even if one COVID-19 infected person enters the water during Chhath Puja, all others might get infected by the virus,” he said, adding his government is being forced to restrict Chhath Puja celebrations at river banks, ponds and other public places due to the threat of a spike in cases.
Jharkhand, however, in an u-turn, allowed rituals on the banks of rivers, ponds and other public waterbodies for the festival, two days after banning the same in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The West Bengal government too urged people to perform Chhath Puja rituals at home or at nearby water bodies in small groups and not take out processions.
Several districts in Maharashtra too, including Pune, have called for restricted celebrations during the festival. Devotees have been asked to celebrate the festival indoors by following necessary protocols.
Several leaders and politicians have extended their greetings on the occasion while asking everyone to follow restrictions and celebrate responsibly.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has asked everyone celebrating Chhath Puja to remain vigilant against coronavirus.
This morning President Ram Nath Kovind also extended his greetings on the occasion of Chhath Puja and asked everyone to celebrate keeping the pandemic in mind.
Greetings to fellow citizens on Chhath Puja.
May ‘Chhath Maiya’ bless all the citizens with good health and prosperity.
On this auspicious occasion, let us resolve to preserve nature and environment and celebrate the festival keeping in mind the spread of Covid-19.
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) November 20, 2020
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also wished everyone on Chhath Puja.
“Wishing everyone on the auspicious occasion of Chhath Puja. May Chhathi Maiya fulfil all your wishes and you remain healthy and prosperous,” Mr Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.
The festival will conclude on Saturday with prayers to the rising Sun.