ARRAYPATNA: With Chhath, the most popular Hindu festival in Bihar, beginning on Tuesday, markets across the state are flooded with traditional items like earthen lamps, clay stoves and a cleanliness drive is underway on mission mode in villages and towns.
For the four-day Chhath, locally known as "Mahaparv", devotees are busy buying dry wood of mango trees, "soop" and "tokri", locally known as daura - made up of bamboo, "mitti ka chulha" (earthen stove), earthen utensils, earthen lamps, "August ka phool", "lauki" (gourd), "ghaagar nimbu", sugarcane stems and other products.
"Natural products have flooded market as devotees have to use them only during Chhath. These items are mandatory to pray and worship the setting and rising Sun God and to observe fast," said Manju Devi, a housewife, who has been celebrating the festival for over three decades.
Melodious devotional folk songs by popular singers, including Sharda Sinha, Devi and Kalpanna, are being played loudly at market places.
People have been making special efforts to clean homes and lanes connecting to the Ganga ghats and ponds.
Shopkeepers and vendors selling the Chhath items are hopeful of earning extra money due to the high demand.
In different parts of Bihar, particularly in Patna, hundreds of roadside temporary shops have sprung up where the vendors, mostly poor men and women, are selling these items. Besides, big shops are also selling such items.
Roadside vendors are also selling "baddhi", "aiya", "alta", "sindur", "kapur" and "chandan" besides other small but essential items for devotees.
The dry wood of mango trees is used as fuel for cooking the traditional meal of boiled rice and lauki (gourd) on Tuesday, the first day of Chhath, known as "Nahay Khay".
It is believed that mango wood helps the food cook properly because of its low flame.
"August ka phool" is being sold at Rs 800-1,000 per kg, in view of the demand.
"Lauki" (gourd) is selling at Rs 50 to 80 per piece due to high demand.
"Devotees cannot cook any other vegetable. 'Lauki' has been consumed on 'Nahay Khay' for ages. It is good for the stomach," said Saket Kumar, whose aunty follows this ritual every year.
Devotees, mainly married women, throng river banks and different water bodies for a bath before preparing the food known as "Nahai Khay" that marks the beginning of Chhath.
Banana is an essential fruit offered to the Sun God during Chhath. In view of its high demand, bananas from Andhra Pradesh have flooded the market.
Besides banana, 'ghaagar nimbu', coconut, apple, orange and sugarcane are also bought for the ritual.
The administration, along with dozens of voluntary organisations, is working round-the-clock to manage the crowds and keep the areas around river banks clean.
Chhath is a festival associated with faith, purity and devotion to the Sun God. Married women observe fast during the festival.