Patna is well and truly in the grip of festive fervour what with Diwali, Kalipuja and Chhatth coming in a quick sequence. The last few days have been all about Chhath with breathless Biharis from all over the country hanging on to every available mode of transport to come home for Chhath. The end of the 36-hour fasting ritual saw Patnaites make a beeline to the Ganga’s shores to offer arghya to the sun god.
Cheers over cleaner air
Patnaites were glad to have cleaner air to breathe on the morning after Diwali this year unlike in previous years. Although Diwali night noise levels in this perennially noisy city were slightly higher, the cleaner air was a pleasant surprise. Respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) on the morning after Diwali was recorded at 379.72 micrograms per cubic metre against 685.97 last year.
This welcome change was the result of young people shunning firecrackers in significant numbers after the Supreme Court banned sale of fireworks altogether in the Delhi-NCR region. Data from the Bihar State Pollution Control Board showed the RSPM levels in the city started falling even before Diwali.
University drive against graffiti
Known as the cradle of many top politicians in Bihar, the century-old Patna University seems to have been energized after PM Narendra Modi’s recent visit to its portals. The university’s administration, after supervising a major facelift of the premises for the centenary celebrations, is now keen on keeping its surroundings thoroughly clean.
No more defacement of hostel walls with graffiti. “We will meet student reps shortly and ask them not to scribble graffiti on the walls any more,” said registrar Birendra Kumar. If anyone defaces the walls, they have to clean it up.
Malls rise to Chhath
But the marketplaces and streets in Patna have been overcrowded since two days before Chhath Puja as people scurried about to stock up for the festival. As traffic slowed to the proverbial snail’s pace, many Patnaites avoided stepping out altogther.
Happily, goods like earthen ovens and sugarcane required for the four-day annual festival were available in malls for the first time. The well-heeled were happy enough to shop for Chhath in air-conditioned malls. The festival is held in honour of the Sun God and his consort Usha, and the strict rituals are observed by rich and poor alike.
Goddess Kali’s popularity
While Diwali has long been big in Patna, Kali puja fans have been increasing in recent years. Earlier it used to be the lesser festival as it often coincided with the festival of lights. this year, more than a dozen Kali puja pandals cropped up in the city this year, though the number is still short of the Durga puja pandals.
One reason why Kali puja was less popular earlier is that priests skilled in the stern rituals involving Tantric mantras were not easily available in Patna. The city’s small Bengali community has, however, been observing Kali puja with great fervour for close to a century.
Anand ST Das
The author is the correspondent of the New Indian Express in Bihar.