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The Festival of Life: A Photo-Essay

Photographer Nilav Bose captures various moments from Chhath Pooja celebrations

Chhath Pooja is an ancient Hindu Vedic festival historically native to the Indian subcontinent, but more specifically, to the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, and the Madhesh region of Nepal. The Pooja is dedicated to the Sun God and his sister, Shashti Devi, mother of Kartikeya (Chhathi Maiya), in order to thank them for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes. Chhath is one of the most widely celebrated festivals of Bihar. However Bengal, being the home to diverse cultural trends and people of all sects and castes, is a witness to the Chhath Pooja celebrations with great pomp and show.

Chhath Pooja is not associated with any form of idol worship. Hindu women pray to the Sun God and Chhati Maiya for the well-being of their family and themselves. They take a dip in the holy waters of River Ganga and offer various fruits, thekuas, kheer and sweets to the Sun God. An interesting fact is that many people do not know is that offerings are also made to the Moon Goddess on the day of the Pooja. Women sanctify themselves by invoking the blessings of Ganga Maiya (Goddess Ganga) by taking a bath in the holy waters, once in the evening and once in the early morning on the next day. The festival is skipped only if there happens to be a death in the family that year. If the person stops performing the ritual on any particular year, it stops permanently and one cannot resume it. In other communities, this is not mandatory. For the photographer, huge crowds and moss-filled stairways leading to the river made capturing the moments difficult. Here are a few of them:

About the photographer: Nilav Bose is an award-winning filmmaker and a photographer based out in Kolkata. His achievements include being the 1st runners-up in CANON Photo Marathon, 2019; being featured in National Geographic, Sony and BBC Earth; being awarded the Best Director title in Bosco Showtime Film Festival, and the honourable 1st Special Mention in Utkarsh Bangla Photography Competition. Besides being published several times in The Telegraph and Instagram communities, Bose’s works have earned national and international accolades.

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