New Delhi/Mumbai/Chennai, Jan 14 IANS | 11 months ago

India Tuesday 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.

Tuesday's celebrations coincided with Eid Milad-un-Nabi, the birthday of Prophet Mohammed.

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 and greeted all with "Teel-gul ghya, ani god-god bola" (Have a teel-jaggery laddoo and talk sweet).

In Gujarat and pockets Gujaratis elsewhere, 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 Punjabis and north Indians celebrated traditional Lohri with dancing and festivities around fires lit Monday night, and merriment continued throughout Tuesday.

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.

This year, the day also coincided with Eid Milad-un-Nabi, the birthday of Prophet Mohammed celebrated with programmes and processions.

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.

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 Bhogi fire was lit in several parts of the state for the second day Tuesday as confusion prevailed over the exact 'muhurta' (auspicious time) of Sankranti.

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.

However, in most of the villages women made colourful 'muggu' or 'rangoli' (colourful patterns) in front of their houses with cow dung, flowers and mango leaves. They prepared 'chakkara pongal' or rice kheer, a special dish made of new rice, jaggery and milk. The dish is allowed to boil over which symbolises abundance.

In neighbouring Tamil Nadu, people celebrated Pongal Tuesday by getting up early, donning new clothes and visiting temples. The festival is celebrated to thank the sun, rain and farm animals.

The aroma of ghee-fried cashews, almonds and cardamom filled homes as the traditional dish of rice, jaggery and Bengal gram was made.

As the ingredients of Chakarai Pongal boil in milk, people called out 'Pongolo Pongal, Pongolo Pongal'.

The Pongal dish is offered to the Sun god as thanksgiving and eaten as 'prasad' (offering).

The state of Odisha saw people taking a holy dip in ponds, tanks and rivers and visiting temples as they too celebrated Makar Sankranti Tuesday.

More than three lakh devotees converged on the pilgrim town of Puri, and visited the temple of Lord Jagannath to witness the special rituals performed by temple priests on the occasion.

"Long queues of devotees were seen at the temple in the morning," a senior district police official told IANS.

Devotees also thronged the Puri districts's beach town Konark and worshipped the Sun God as the sun started its annual shift towards the Earth's northern hemisphere.

People prepared a special dish made with newly harvested rice, sugar, banana, coconut and black pepper and offered it to the gods. Some exchanged a special dish 'Makar Chaula' among themselves.

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 early Tuesday to mark Makar Sankranti.

Huge gatherings were reported at Tattapani, 50 km from Shimla, and Manikaran, home to a Sikh shrine in Kullu district, for a holy dip in the Sutlej and Parvati rivers respectively, officials said.

Both Tattapani and Manikaran, known for hot springs with high sulphur concentration, witnessed a majority of devotees mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.

(Posted on 14-01-2014)

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