Indian-Americans, mainly from Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh, celebrated the Hindu religious festival, Chhath Puja by worshiping the Sun God at various places in the US.
The community members gathered in small numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic at various water bodies across the country, from the banks of the historic Potomac river to a lake in New Jersey to makeshift pools in houses.
Hundreds of Indian-American devotees watched the celebrations, including the worship of the sunset on Friday and sunrise on Saturday, live on Zoom and other social media platforms.
Chhath, an ancient Hindu Vedic festival, is mostly celebrated in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. People during the festival fast, bathe in the rivers and offer prayers to thank Sun God for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and fulfilling wishes. The four-day festival culminated on Saturday morning this year.
"The presence was limited to 25 people with family members maintaining social distancing. Additional people who visited the venue to watch the Chhath Puja were watching the procession from a distance at the bank of Potomac river to obey the state mandate on social gathering during this pandemic," said Kripa Singh, an attendee.
Mr Singh, a software engineer, along with his wife Anita, have been celebrating Chhath Puja on the banks of the Potomac river, in the Virginia suburb of Washington DC since 2006.
"The whole series of event from Kharna to Morning Arghya was live telecast on Zoom and Facebook live for people who couldn't join in person because of the pandemic and also for their families located overseas in India and Nepal. People from Nepal like Mohan Yadav, Dharmendra Thakur and Vijay Singh helped coordinate the live telecast," Mr Singh said.
Bihar Jharkhand Association of North America (BJANA) celebrated its fourth consecutive Chaath Puja at Thompson Park, Monroe in New Jersey, which among others was attended by Consul General of India in New York, Randhir Jaiswal and Deputy Consul General Shatrughna Sinha.
Mr Jaiswal said that it is great to see the love and affection for the mother land.
"We have always been celebrating Chhath in Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern UP since childhood with so much devotion and reverence. Once in America, we all missed our home, specially more so during Chhath," said Avinash Gupta, president of BJANA.
"We are overwhelmed with the community's response in the tristate area with hundreds attending. It unites the community and brings us closer and keeps us connected to our roots. It gave us the feeling of home away from home," he said.
"Staying away from our roots and celebrating Chhath Puja in New Jersey is like a dream for us. We are grateful to BJANA and all the vratis (fasters) for their effort," said Vandana Kumar.
"Chhath has medical and religious significance. Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his research on how cells recycle and renew their content which is very much connected to Chhath Mahaparv," said Alok Kumar, one of the attendees.
"This was my first time doing Chhath in US and I didn't even feel I was not in India," said Sushma Singh.
"The grandeur and festivity was no less than the way it is celebrated in India. The best part was that more and more people are getting attached to it every year. This is an indicator that we are getting more closer to our roots and culture," said Neetu and Sanjay Prasad.
Noting that Chhath is a very important part of the Indian culture, Vinita Kumar, who was involved in the drive-through prasad distribution, said that even during the time of a pandemic, the organisers found a way to celebrate this religious event by practicing social distancing.
Chhath Puja was also celebrated in Pennsylvania, Florida and Texas.