Chhath Parva, attracts thousands of pilgrims to the holy town of Janakpur in south-eastern Nepal. But it is celebrated all over Nepal including Kathmandu where people from the Terai gather along the banks of rivers especially Bagmati to worship. The goal they say is to achieve purity both physical and spiritual.
Devotees from Nepal and India throng the ancient city of Janakpur to worship at the famous Janaki Temple and take ritual baths in the rivers and ponds. It is a three-day festival with the first day spent in cleaning the kitchen and preparing for the fast.
On the second day, devotees fast from the morning and spend the day preparing their offerings of fruits, sweets and nuts etc. In the evening they gather at the banks of rivers and ponds to wait for the sun to set. They light lamps, sing songs and wade into the water to pray and make offerings to the fading sun. Lighted oil-wick lamps are set afloat on the river and it is a beautiful sight to behold.
After the sun goes down the devotees return home. The worshippers are almost exclusively women with most men just watching. The ritual is repeated the next morning at dawn when they wait for the sun to rise. As the sun comes up over the horizon there is euphoria and devotees scramble to offer prayers, holy water, fruits, coconuts and sacred threads.
The ritual is also to ask the sun for protection from skin diseases. When it is over the offerings are distributed and the women break their fast.