The festival of Chhath was celebrated with huge fervor on the banks of the historic Potomac River as more than 600 Indian-Americans gathered here from the suburbs.
The huge numbers made it the largest gathering in the last nine years. Indian-Americans from the area attended the three-day long annual festival organised here on Sunday.
"This was the largest gathering for Chhath Puja," said Kripa Singh, an eminent Indian American community leader in Virginia, who has been solely organising the event for the past nine years now.
This year, people came from as far as Chicago, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey in addition to those from Maryland and Virginia. Last year, around 250 Indian-Americans took part in this festival of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Recounting how it all began, Singh - who hails from Bihar's capital Patna - said, in 2007 his mother asked his wife Anita to take care of Chhath Puja to keep alive the family tradition of generations.
When he inquired among his friends and other Indian-American community leaders if anyone here performed the Chhath Puja, he found that people did it inside their homes or at the most in a makeshift plastic tub full of water following which the idea of organising the ceremony on the banks of Potomac River in Loudon County struck his mind when he saw concrete boat ramp on a picnic trip with his friends.
He found the place good for performing the rare Puja in the real way with all the traditional and religious rituals. He, then, approached the Loudon County Parks and Recreation Department with the details and sought permission to do the ceremony which was granted.
He said that the Loudon county is enthusiastic about supporting the Indian-Americans in organising this rare festival outside India. Chhath Puja entails worship of Sun God, embodied in cosmic energy, and is observed mainly by people from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh.