I originally wrote the news story for Republica.
When he was studying at a college in Kathmandu, Vijay Prasad Keshari, a native of Gaur in Rautahat district, would always feel nostalgic during Chhath festival.
Back then, the government was yet to declare national holiday on the day of Chhath. So Keshari would hardly get a chance to visit his home to celebrate the festival. Keshari, now employed and busy in his work, still finds it difficult to visit Gaur during Chhath festival. But he no longer feels nostalgic.
“Even this year I could not go home,” said he. “But I do not miss the celebration as much as I used to during my college years.” Keshari explained that now Madheshi people residing in the capital enjoy Chhath festival here with as much joy and excitement as in their villages in the Terai. Like Keshari, thousands of devotees observed Chhath, known as the festival of the sun god, on the banks of rivers and ponds in Kathmandu on Wednesday evening. Rani Pokhari, which attracts large number of devotees, was aglow with colorful and bright lights and stalls. Rani Pokhari was opened for Chhath celebration eight years ago with significant efforts of the then local development minister Rajendra Pandey, according to members of Chhath celebration committee, 2071 BS. On Wednesday and Thursday, among four-day Chhath celebration that started from Monday, devotees, especially colorfully dressed women, offer argha and prasad to the setting and the rising sun standing knee-deep in the water. This year, the number of devotees celebrating Chhath festival in Kathmandu has remarkably increased and the trend continues, claimed Suman Jayaswal, vice-coordinator of the committee. According to him, around 300 families have registered with the committee for the ghats, or river banks where devotees erect their prayer stalls. But additional families observing Chhath also came to Rani Pokhari. Kashinath Rauniyar, a local businessman from Parsa, migrated to Kathmandu some two decades ago. “I have been celebrating the festival in the Valley since a long time. However, I decided to join the celebration at the Rani Pokhari recently after it was opened for the festival.” However, for Durga Nand Mandal and his family, who hail from Mahadeva VDC of Saptari, it is the second year that they have been observing the festival in the Valley. The family, who is running a business here, says the one-day government holiday makes the celebrations quite hectic for them. “My family celebrates Dashain and Tihar in my hometown. But we have been celebrating the festival here for the last four years,” Santosh Shah, president of Today´s Youth Asia, told Republica. Although his families have been living in the capital city for the last decade, until recently they traveled to Barhathwa of Sarlahi district to celebrate Chhath. “Due to just one day holiday, we always faced a lot of hassles,” Shah added. Shambhu Prasad Jayaswal, a vegetable vendor in Kalimati, shared the same compulsion. “My children are enrolled in schools in the Valley. Visiting our hometown would hamper their education,” said Jayaswal, who comes from Rautahat district. Chhath festival is also celebrated by people from Pahadi community residing in Tarai. Among them is Jyoti Baidya belonging to Newar Community, who had been celebrating Chhath in Parsa district. But this year the Baidya family is celebrating the festival in Kathmandu for the first time. “As all my families and relatives are here in Kathmandu, we have started celebrating here,” Jyoti said. “All I had to do was to bring my mother to Kathmandu from Birgunj.” Chhath is equally popular in neighboring India. Chandra Dev Sah, an Indian national from Muzaffarpur of the Indian State of Bihar, has been celebrating the festival in Kathmandu since the time his ancestors established a business here five decades ago. “Visiting my village for the festival would not only be costlier but also hectic,” said Chandra.