Over 500 Indian-Americans throng Potomac river to celebrate Chhath in US
Washington, Nov 5: Over 500 Indian-Americans gathered on the banks of the Potomac River here to celebrate the Chhath puja, with several women attired in colourful traditional sarees worshipping the rising sun. Chhath Puja, which is mainly observed in the eastern and northern parts of India and Nepal, is dedicated to the Sun God and the ancient Vedic Goddess Usha.
With Chhath falling on a weekend - Saturday evening and Sunday morning - the banks of the Potomac river in the Virginia suburb of Washington attracted more than 500 Indian-Americans, several of whom drove a few hundred kilometres to celebrate this popular Indian festival.
Over the past few years, Indian-Americans are being joined by the Nepali-American community, giving a unique dimension to the Chhath celebrations overseas. Kripa Shankar Singh, a software engineer who migrated to the US from Patna, said it all started in 2006 when he and his wife Anita started looking for a place to celebrate the Chhath puja.
One day while camping at a park near the Potomac, the Singh couple decided to pursue the idea of celebrating Chhath the traditional way on a river bank. Days later, he approached the park officials for permission. After initial hiccups and a little bit of explanation, the Loudon County granted him the permission.
From observing the Chhat by a small group of family and friends of Singh in 2006, it has now emerged as one of the largest celebrations of the festival outside India and Nepal. The number of people participating in the festival are increasing every passing year, said Singh, who has been organising the event for over a decade now.
"This year was the largest one," he said, adding that the entire event is a volunteer driven celebration. Singh opens his home every year for the pooja performers and for cooking of the 'prasad' (offering). "This is our attempt to keep our culture alive in a foreign land," Singh said, adding that he is surprised by the turnout of the people for this festival. "When we started this a decade ago, we never thought it can go this far," he said. This year, the celebration was broadcast live on Facebook and attracted thousands of viewers.