People in most parts of the country were under the grip of festivity on Saturday with Makar Sankranti being celebrated in north and eastern states and those in Assam and Tamil Nadu soaking in harvest festivals Magh Bihu and Pongal.
Lakhs of devotees took holy dip in Gangasagar in West Bengal, Sangam in Allahabad –the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical river Saraswati, and other rivers and water bodies on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, braving biting cold.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, many chief ministers and political leaders greeted the nation on harvest festivals.
“On the special occasion of Magh Bihu, my greetings to the people of Assam,” he said. “Uttarayan greetings to the people of Gujarat,” Modi said in another tweet. He tweeted the messages in local languages also.
In Tamil Nadu, decorated earthen pots brimming with boiling rice, beating of drums and offering of sugarcane pieces to the Sun God at streets and temples marked the harvest festival of Pongal.
However, protests over banning of bull-taming sport Jallikattu dampened the festive spirit in Madurai and the drought situation in Cauvery delta districts affected the celebratory mood there.
Streets in both rural and urban areas of the state were decked up with designs made of flour (called ‘Kolam’ in Tamil). “Samathuva Pongal” (Egalitarian, community Pongal) was celebrated in several towns by local people.
State government-organised Pongal festivals were also held in places including Nilgiris where several foreign tourists participated in the celebrations. Chief Minister O Panneerselvam celebrated Pongal and his 66th birthday on Saturday in his native Periakulam in Theni district. DMK working president M K Stalin celebrated Pongal at his residence in Chennai.
People in Assam also celebrated harvest festival Magh Bihu with traditional fervour.
In Kerala, thousands of devotees offered worship at the famous Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala on the auspicious occasion of Makaravilakku, marking the culmination of the over two-month-long pilgrimage.
The holy hill of Sabarimala, atop which the Ayyappa temple is located, reverberated with chants of “Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa” when the portals of the shrine was opened for “deeparadhana” (arti) in the evening.