Muslim women in Bihar have taken promoting communal harmony to the next level by going on a ghat-cleaning drive to help their Hindu counterparts celebrate Chhath Puja.
Chhath Puja is a Hindu festival thanking the sun god for life on earth. It is celebrated in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and also by Hindus in other countries like Nepal and Mauritius. The four-day festival sees devotees taking holy baths in the Ganga. Muslim women who cleaned the ghats of the Ganges said in an interview to ANI,
“Chhath Puja is a big festival; it is a festival of devotion and cleanliness. We also participate in big numbers in the festival. We want to end the kind of violence that has been instigated between Muslims and Hindus in recent days.”
The rituals also include cooking in newly bought special earthen stoves. The majority of these stoves are made by Muslim women in Bihar. To respect the traditions and beliefs of the Hindus, they abstain from non-veg and using onions and garlic in their cooking until they are done with making the stoves. In an interview with Firstpost, Najama, one of the Muslim women involved in preparing stoves, said,
"We have stopped consuming onion, garlic, and meat while making the mitti ka chulhas. We only touch the clay for making the stoves after we've bathed and worn fresh clothes. We make the earthen stoves with great care and purity since they are being used for Chhath."
During Chhath Puja, the practice is for women to fast and have a bath in the Ganga or Punpun or other water bodies and prepare vegetarian food on handmade earthen stoves.
In the context of communal harmony and brotherhood, what these Muslim women are doing is admirable. However, it is unfortunate that blindly following the rules dictated by patriarchy, only women cleaned the ghats while the menfolk were nowhere to be seen.