The annual four-day Chhath Puja, usually associated with the state of Bihar, is also celebrated in Nepal and many other parts of northern India including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh. Celebrated on the sixth day of the Hindu month of Karthika, the puja finds mention as far back at the Rig Veda. There are even mentions of Draupadi and Sita performing it in Mahabharata and Ramayana respectively.
One of the few Hindu rituals that do not involve idol worship, the puja honours Surya, the sun god and his wife. In Varanasi, fasting devotees gather at the ghats to thank the gods for a rich bounty, performing the surya namaskar at sunrise and sunset, and offering baskets of fruits, flowers, sugarcane and cooked prasad.
In this story, a photographer captures the Chhath Puja rituals on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi.
Abhishek Hajela is the recipient of the prestigious International Nikon Award. He curates and leads experiential photography workshops globally, and also works closely with the semi-nomadic tribes of Rajasthan.