Native to the regions of Bihar and other northern states, Chhath Puja is a celebration believed to predate ancient Vedic texts.
During the puja, festivities span across 4 days to worship the Sun god and seek blessings for the overall prosperity of the family.
Like all other districts in Bihar, Vaishali too had been gearing up for Chhath celebrations, held from October 24th to 27th this year. The Vaishali district administration utilised the festive occasion to propagate Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s primary objective: building toilets.
This Chhath Puja, Bihar witnessed 784 youngsters from the Vaishali district gifting toilets to their families. During the 4-day celebration, these toilets were handed over to their mothers who had been forced to relieve themselves in the open till now.
The district administration had been working towards the toilet gifting plan a month in advance and wanted the festive occasion to be more special for numerous women who never had access to a household toilet.
“The festive occasion is always used to exchange gifts and there is a general mood of happiness all around. We decided that this year, Chhath could be used to gift toilets instead of any other traditional gifts. Given how the Swachh Bharat campaign has become an integral part of districts across the country, we decided to see how we can weave the campaign with the festive spirit,” said Rachana Patil, District Magistrate, Vaishali.
“When you gift a toilet to your mother, you are also giving her dignity, self-respect and protection, the boys were told. In addition, they will set an example for others,” the DM added.
A Step Forward
The district administration realised the district’s severe sanitation issues and moved towards the goal of open defecation free (ODF) environment in the village. Starting from earlier this year, the administration went to many villages in the district and held the community led total sanitation (CLTS) campaigns.
These campaigns helped educate people about the importance of having toilets and about the Swachh Bharat funding of Rs. 12,000 for building individual household toilets. In one such campaign, the administration came up with the idea of the toilet-gifting on Chhath Puja.
Preserving Dignity For All
The toilets gifted to the mothers of the district have been branded as “Izzat Ghars” because they aimed towards ending the indignity that women have faced over the years by defecating in the open. They think that this step will attract the attention of more youngsters towards this cause. The participating youngsters will receive certificates from the administration.
In the meantime, the entire State is geared up for the cleaning of ghats and other public spaces in addition to their homes, to celebrate Chhath Pooja 2017.