New Delhi, Nov 16 (UNI) Lakhs of devotees offered 'Araghya' (obeisance) with fruit and choicest homemade sweets to the setting 'Sun' at some of major ghats in the capital this evening on the occasion of Chhath pooja, a festival embodying devotion, sense of bonding and self-restraint.
Women also sang peans for Chhathhi Maiyya with the hope and belief that the Lord will take care of their sustenance and give them prosperity, health and life-sustaining energy.
The ''Araghya'' is offered to the Sun God on evening of the sixth day of Diwali in the Hindu month of Kartik, signifying the name of the festival-- Chhath.
The festival will culminate tomorrow with obeisance being paid to rising Sun God. On the final day, the puja starts at the riverbank before sunrise. This is followed by distribution of prasad among devotees.
Known for observing strict abstinence and purity while performing the rituals by the devotees, Chhath festival is perhaps the only one of its kind in world when people worship the setting Sun.
Devotees observing Chhath popularly called as ''bratees'' begin the puja rituals after taking a holy dip in the Yamuna on the fourth day of Diwali. On the fifth day, devotees offer ''Kheer''and other traditional preparations in the evening and it is later distributed as 'prasad' among the people.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government made elaborate arrangements so as to ensure smooth celebration of the festival. At Pontoon Bridge ghat, the BJP delegation, including Delhi BJP chief Harshvardhan and Delhi Mayor Aarti Mehra, was led by former Union Minister Shatrughan Sinha.
Dr Harshvardhan said, ''We are ensuring that everything goes smoothly and we are ensuring that devotees face no problem while performing the pooja.'' The Poorvanchali population is on the rise in the capital and has almost touched the mark of 40 lakh. Last year, the pooja was offered at 27 ghats, including Sonia Vihar, Kalindi Kunj and Bhalsawa Lake, but this year eight more have been added to the list.
At least 10,000 policemen and traffic cops were deployed to ensure security at the ghats and a smooth traffic flow.
At some ghats some divers were also stationed to avert any incident of drowning.
All department -- like MCD, DJB, Fire Services and Flood and Irrigation -- were put on alert for the festival.
While it is a major festival in Bihar, it is celebrated with renewed vigour in cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
''The festival is meant to express our thanks to the sun god,'' Rajjo Devi, who came along with her family to the Kalindi Kunj ghat to offer prayers, told UNI this evening.
Throughout the festival of Chhath, utmost purity is maintained, vegetarian food is prepared without salt, onions and garlic. In the past, even the vessels used were mostly earthen and people would sleep on the floor.
Chakua, Dhekwa and Ladua, the traditional goodies are prepared and consumed and distributed as prasad.
Talking to UNI, Nasirpur MLA and patron of Bhojpuri Samaj, one of the organisers of community celebrations for Chhath pooja in Delhi, Mahabal Mishra said, '' Besides pooja, we also organise devotional musical programmes with Bhojpuri and Maithili artistes.
All arrangements are in place and we are happy that the festival is being celebrated with customary colour and vigour.'' UNI