Hindus take holy dip in Ganges to celebrate Makar Sankranti
Devout Hindus from across India converged on Tuesday to take a dip in the holy Ganges as they celebrated Makar Sankranti, the harvest festival with traditional fervour.
The festival of Makar Sankranti marks the northward journey of the Sun as it enters the Capricorn zodiac.
A large number of devotees gathered at dawn in Allahabad city and in the temple town of Varanasi in northern Uttar Pradesh and bathed in the cold waters of the holy river Ganges.
Meanwhile, strict security measures have been stepped up at the religious sites so that the the devotees can perform the ritual in a peaceful manner.
"The holy dip ritual for the Hindu festival, Makar Sankranti, has begun. Our two police force officials are posted to guard and make sure that the holy dip ritual takes place in a secured manner. A lot of people have been working to organise this occasion smoothly. The rush (of devotees )is going to increase. We will take all possible initiatives that this takes place in a quiet and peaceful manner,"said a police officer, Sangram Singh.
The pilgrims camp by the riverside. In the evening, pilgrims and local people decorate the entire riverbank with tiny earthen lamps.
A Hindu priest, Bhole Nath, said that the festival marks the beginning of New Year and the holy bath absolves the devotees of all sins committed so far in this birth.
"The importance of this festival and the holy dip is that devotees pray for the well-being and peace of the family and also to drive away all evil forces,"said he.
Devotees believed that once the ritual is performed, the souls of their ancestors would be relieved of all sins and they would also be freed from the cycle of birth and death.
Locals queued up before priests who had erected makeshift altars on the riverbanks to perform the rituals and offer prayers.
The banks of the river in both the cities reverberated with Vedic chants as hundreds of devotees gathered to worship the Sun God.
The harvest festival is named Lohri in the northern India, Pongal in southern Tamil Nadu and parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka,whereas in Assam, it is hailed as Bihu and in the rest of India, it is celebrated as Makar Sankranti.
(Posted on 14-01-2014)