Washington: Braving subzero temperatures, scores of Indian Americans, some even driving a few hundred miles, gathered on the banks of the historic Potomac river in the suburb of the US capital over the weekend to celebrate the ancient Hindu festival of Chhath.
Into its fifth year, the celebration of Chhath, which was initially started by a software engineer from Patna, the annual Hindu festival dedicated to worshipping the sun has now started attracting large numbers of the Indian American community and also from the small Nepali American community.
"It has been an overwhelming response and the number of people coming to watch us performing Chhath Pooja has been increasing every passing year," Kripa Shankar Singh, who has been singlehandedly organising the annual event for the past few years, told PTI.
A few of the Indian Americans, he said, drove from as far as Atlanta in Georgia, adding that there is demand from the community members to make it a larger event from next year.
Singh`s wife Anita Singh was joined by Manisha Singh, a Nepali-American, in performing the pooja on the bank of the Potomac river on Friday evening and early Saturday morning when the weather was below freezing.
Still several of the devotees were seen entering the chilly waters of the Potomac river to perform the Chhath Pooja in traditional style with their early morning offerings to the Sun God.
A huge tent was erected by Singh on the banks with bonfire and electric heaters being run through portable generators to keep the scores of visitors warm on the chilly morning.
It all started some six years ago, when Anita was asked by her mother-in-law in Bihar to do Chhath Pooja come what may as this is something they could not afford to miss.
Singh and some of his friends once went for a picnic on the banks of the Potomac River in Loudon County, a suburb of Washington DC.
The concrete boat ramp there, Singh said, gave him the idea that the place was good for performing Chhath Pooja in the real way with all the traditional and religious rituals.
Soon he approached the Loudon County Parks and Recreation Department with the details and sought permission to do the Chhath Pooja on the river banks.
"Permission was granted," he said, adding that the Loudon county is enthusiastic about supporting the Indian Americans in organising this rare festival outside India.