Patna: All roads in the state led to the Ganga, Gandak, Kosi, Kamla, other smaller rivers, lakes and ponds, as lakhs of people travelled to the water bodies to offer Sandhya Arghya (Evening offerings) on the occasion of Chhath, a festival dedicated to the Sun God on Wednesday.
Devotees dressed in traditional attire of dhoti or sari, and accompanied by family members marched barefoot to the river banks and ponds singing devotional songs in Maithili, Bhojpuri and Magahi languages.
Several families brought along musical instruments and drums with them to give a musical touch on the occasion of the biggest festival of the state.
All the routes leading to the ghats wore a spic and span look as municipal bodies, government officials, police personnel, residents all lent their hands to clean roads, streets and lanes. Colourful lights and flower garlands decorated the pathways, as well as, ghats.
The devotees placed 'prasada' offerings along the river banks and prayed to the Sun, seeking health and prosperity for themselves and their family members.
The prayers ended with oblations of 'Gangajal' to the setting Sun and people celebrated with fireworks to mark the occasion.
Many devotees will spend the night at the river ghats or along the lakes or ponds for the final Chhath rituals at sunrise tomorrow.
The state administration was on its toes throughout the day to facilitate smooth conduct of rituals and avoid any untoward incident like the Chhath stampede in 2012 in which 22 people lost their lives at Adalat Ghat in the state capital, or the Dussehra stampede on October 3 this year, which claimed 33 lives.
Disaster Management Department (DMD) Principal Secretary Vyasji inspected the ghats and other arrangements along the Ganga in Patna and Vaishali districts for the devotees.
Apart from the residents of the state capital, a large number of worshippers come to Patna and Vaishali from neighbouring districts to offer Chhath prayers in the holy river.
"Anywhere between 12 and 15 lakh people are participating
in Chhath rituals along the Ganga in Patna district. Special barricading has been done on over 100 big and small ghats along the Ganga to control the sea of devotees. Officers have been deputed to stop people from visiting the dangerous ghats," Vyasji said.
The DMD Principal Secretary said altogether eight teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and six teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) have been deployed in Patna and other districts to ensure the safety and well being of the devotees and their families. The teams are fully-equipped with boats and life jackets.
The state government has also deployed boats and divers along the river banks. Plying of private boats has been banned during the Chhath. A large number of ambulances and trained medical personnel have also been stationed at vantage points.
"Large number of police and paramilitary personnel have also been deployed to oversee the festivities. We believe everything will go on smoothly," said Vyasji.
The state government has also directed all the district magistrates and SPs to personally monitor the Chhath ceremonies in their areas.
People also thronged the famous Sun Temple at Deo in Aurangabad district in the state to perform Chhath. The administration has taken special care to light up the area by using 150 powerful generators. Over a lakh devotees have converged at the temple built in 8th century AD.
The state government has declared a two day holiday today and tomorrow on the festive occasion.
Union Law, Communications and IT Minister Ravishankar Prasad arrived in Patna today to attend the festival. Prasad went to the Ganga ghats to see the arrangements made by the district administration.
Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief and Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ram Vilas Paswan was also present in the state capital on the festive occasion. He took part in the evening rituals to the Sun God.
Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi's wife is observing Chhath at their native place Mahkar in Gaya district.
However, unlike yesteryears, no Chhath celebrations were held at senior JD (U) leader and former Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad's residences. Lalu Prasad is currently recuperating in New Delhi after his heart surgery.