A traditionally dressed woman reacts to the camera during a community function on the occasion of Pongal, in Mumbai yesterday.
New Delhi/Mumbai/Chennai: India yesterday celebrated the beginning of its harvest season, with prayers, singing, dancing and feasting.
Skies were dotted with kites marking Makar Sankranti of Maharashtrians and Uttarayan of Gujaratis, and south Indians churned up Pongal dishes. The night before, Punjabis and north Indians danced around Lohri fires, and north-east Indians celebrated Bhogali Bihu.
The celebrations coincided with Eid Milad-un-Nabi, the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The Muslim-dominated areas of Delhi, Mumbai and other cities as also the large tracts of Suarashtra in Gujarat were decked up with flags, flowers and buntings. Qawwali programmes were organised and special prayers held in mosques to mark the day.
Across the length and breadth of the country, the mood was festive. Maharashtrian families distributed the traditional sweetmeat tiee-gul laddoos among relatives, friends, neighbours and the casual festival visitors.
In Gujarat, the festival, also known as Uttarayan — the sun’s swing northward in northern hemisphere of the earth — was celebrated with thousands of youth and families gathering in open grounds and parks or packing themselves on building terraces to fly kites and play aerial kite games.
The south Indian states and communities elsewhere in the country also celebrated the day as Pongal and the north-east Indians feasted on their Bhogali Bihu.
Bollywood celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Sridevi, Madhur Bhandarkar and Vivek Oberoi conveyed their best wishes to the fans and people.
Amitabh Bachchan tweeted: “A very happy and prosperous Makar Sankranti and a happy Pongal. May all that you wish fructify. Love and affection, ever.”
Sridevi said in a tweet: “Greetings to all on the occasion of Pongal. Hope this festival brings you happiness, peace and good luck to your lives.”
In Andhra Pradesh, harvest festival Makar Sankranti was celebrated with fervour and gaiety though the Telangana issue left its impact. The countryside wore a festive look with houses being decorated, kite flying, cockfights, bull-fights and other rural sports. Farmers decorated their bullocks, thanking them for their contribution to the harvest.
The day also saw copies of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2013, being burnt in the Bhogi fire in Seemandhra as Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra are together known.
In Tamil Nadu, people celebrated Pongal by getting up early, donning new clothes and visiting temples. The festival is celebrated to thank the sun, rain and farm animals.
The state of Odisha saw people taking a holy dip in ponds, tanks and rivers and visiting temples as they too celebrated Makar Sankranti. More than three lakh devotees converged on the pilgrim town of Puri.
Tribal groups lit bonfires, danced and organised feasts on the eve of Makar Sankranti in various places of Mayurbhanj, Balasore, Keonjhar and Sundergarh districts.
Braving the bitter cold, thousands of devotees across Himachal Pradesh took a dip in rivers to mark Makar Sankranti.