Into its sixth year, the celebration of Chhath which was initially started here by one Kripa Shankar Singh, 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.
"In all nearly 250 people attended the Chhath festival this year," Singh, who has been singlehandedly organising the annual event for the last six years, told PTI.
A few of the Indian-Americans, he said, came from as far as Florida while one of the participating women arrived from India. Four women were from Virginia, two from Maryland, and one each from New York and New Jersey. Attired in traditional colorful saree, Singh's wife Anita Singh was joined by nine women who entered the freezing waters of the Potomac River yesterday morning to perform the Pooja.
Anita started celebrating the festival on the banks of the Potomac river six years ago. Singh said that participation has seen an incremental increase as several families drove several hundred miles and stayed in hotels just to participate and witness Chhath celebration here.
Kumar Singh, an eminent Indian-American community leader in Greater Washington Metropolitan Area said Chhath Pooja is gaining popularity here.
"This is our attempt to keep our religious festival alive," Kumar said. It all began around seven 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 said he inquired among his friends and other Indian-American community leaders if anyone here performed the Chhath Pooja. He found that people did it inside their homes or at the most in a makeshift plastic tub full of water.
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. The concrete boat ramp there, Singh said, gave him the idea that this 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.