NEW DELHI, Jan 15 (IANS): Flying colourful kites, eating piping hot dishes made of rice and jaggery, topped with dollops of ghee and cashew, braving the cold to bathe in rivers and dancing -- India celebrated the harvest festival of Makar Sankranti in different forms to mark the end of the winter solstice.
The festival is celebrated as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh and Bihu in Assam. The celebration is also to mark the transition of the Sun into the 'Makara rashi' (Capricorn) on its celestial path.
In Gujarat, the sky was a riot of colours as people celebrated 'Uttarayan' by flying kites with great gusto. Around 300 enthusiasts from India and abroad took part in Gujarat's International Kite Festival in Ahmedabad that is fast becoming a major tourism event.
At the Sangam of the Ganges and Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh, lakhs of devotees took a holy dip on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti. According to officials, nearly a million devotees took a holy dip on Saturday and Sunday.
To the east in Bengal, three lakh pilgrims took a holy dip in the Ganges on the occasion of Makar Sankranti at Sagar Island.
Two pilgrims also died due to the extreme cold conditions prevailing in the area.
In Odisha, over a lakh devotees from different parts of the country visited the Lord Jagannath Temple at Puri, and worshipped the deities early Sunday morning. Thousands of devotees also worshipped the Sun God at Konark with great fervour and enthusiasm. People also organised kite flying competitions in places like Cuttack and state capital Bhubaneswar.
In Assam, bonfires and community feasts were held across the state as it celebrated the harvest festival of Magh Bihu Sunday.
Magh Bihu also known as Bhogali Bihu, is a two-day festival and dedicated to Lord Agni, the Hindu fire god.
Sankranti was Sunday celebrated with gaiety and traditional fervour across Andhra Pradesh with rangoli, kite-flying, decoration of bulls, cock fight, bull fighting and other rural sports. Towns and villages wore a festive atmosphere with colourful kites dotting the skies and people participating in various competitions organised to mark one of the major festivals of the Telugus.
People across Tamil Nadu got up early, put on new clothes and went to temples on the harvest festival of Pongal Sunday thanking the rain, sun and farm animals. The four-day festival, which began on Saturday will continue till Tuesday.
They also cooked the traditional pongal feast - made of rice, dal and jaggery, topped with kishmish, cashew and ghee.
In Kerala, a year after over 100 people died in a stampede after witnessing the 'Makara Jyothi', pilgrims in large numbers gathered in and around the Sabarimala temple Sunday evening to witness the 'celestial light' that appears on the horizon on Makara Sankranthi.
Several measures have been taken by the administration taking into account the tragedy that took place at Pullumedu - a hillock near the famed temple - in which 102 pilgrims died in a stampede soon after devotees returned witnessing the celestial light last year.