Chhath puja, the main Hindu festival of Biharis is celebrated with traditional fervor to worship the Sun god. It is celebrated on the sixth day after Deewali, for one night and day.
The people of Bihar especially married women, flock to the banks of river Ganga or to other nearby river ghats and ponds to make a ritual offering to Sun god for the prosperity, happiness and peaceful life of their family members as well as the long lives of their husbands. Offerings include cow’s milk, coconut and other fruits Some ardent male devotees crawl the entire route from their house to the river banks bare chested, as an offering. Devotees observe total fast since sunrise and visit the river banks in the afternoon to pay homage. More than one lakh people congregate on the banks of Ganga where prayers are offered in a peaceful atmosphere. People from other castes also celebrate this festival with equal importance.
Navaratri is one of the major festivals connected with the autumnal equinox, beginning on the first and ending on the tenth day of Navaratri. After the idol of Durga has been worshipped for nine preceding days, it is taken to the river and cast into it.
Dussehra celebrates the victory of Rama over Ravana. Hence it is also called Vijayadashami. Huge colourful paper and wooden effigies of Rama’s enemies, Ravana, Meghanada and Kumbhakarna are filled with fire works and burnt during Dussehra.
Holi and Diwali are the other important Hindu festivals celebrated in Bihar.
Hindu women worship Lord Shiva at Jeth Amavasya to ensure the long life of their husband. At Mauni Amavasya they sit silently under a pipal tree on the day of a new moon, provided it is a Monday.
Nag Panchami is a festival observed on the fifth day of the bright half of Sravana. It begins with a fast. Bathing fairs are held on the banks of rivers.
Makar Sankranti is also observed as a festival among certain classes. On this occasion, the participants and believers eat rice flakes, curd and sweets made of til. Janmashtami is observed on the eight day of the second fortnight in the month of Bhadrapada. Special meals are held and thousands of people visit the sacred places and temples.
Maha-Shivaratri is celebrated with great rejoicing and feasting. Other Bihari festivals are; Saraswati puja which is celebrated in all educational institutions and images of goddess of learning are worshipped. Raksha Bandhan, Godhan, Ramnavami, Chitra gupta puja are celebrated mostly by the Kayasthas and Viswakarma puja is observed only by factory workers and workmen. The chief Muslim festivals in Bihar are the Muharram, the two Ids and shah-i-barat.
In tribal life, there is a succession of festivals throughout the year which are connected with agricultural operations. The important festivals among them are Sarhul, Karma and Soharai. Hindu festivals of Holi and Durga puja are also celebrated with great enthusiasm by Hindu tribals.
Sarhul is the most popular of all tribal festivals. It is celebrated on the last day of Baisakh which corresponds to the month of April. It is observed at a time when sal trees are laden with flowers. It resembles the Vasant-mahotsava of the Hindus and may therefore be described as the spring festival of the tribals. It is an occasion of great festivity and enjoyment for people of all ages. All night maidens and youths sing and dance to the accompaniment of the drum, while the old sit and enjoy the enchanting dances.
Another festival among the aboriginals is Soharai or Banda parab, which occurs in the month of Pous, celebrated shortly after the harvest of the rice-crop of the year. It may be called the harvest festival of tribals. On this occasion domestic animals are worshipped, after being washed, anointed with oil and smeared with vermilion.
This festival is observed by the tribals as well as non-tribals. On this occasion the tribal youths spend the whole night singing and dancing. The songs sung on this occasion narrate the legends of Karma and Dharma.
Kanwarias getting ready with Jal for the 100km journey to Baidyanathdham
Among ritual observances, the month-long Shravani Mela, held along a 108-kilometre route linking the towns of Sultanganj and Deoghar (now in Jharkhand state), is of great significance.
Shravani Mela is organised every year in the Hindu month of Shravan, that is the lunar month of July–August. Pilgrims, known as Kanwarias, wear saffron coloured clothes and collect water from a sacred Ghat (river bank) at Sultanganj, walking the 108 km stretch barefooted to the town of Deoghar to bathe a sacred Shiva–Linga. The observance draws thousands of people to the town of Deoghar from all over India.