Allahabad/Varanasi, Jan.14 (ANI): Hundreds of thousands of devotees took holy dip in the sacred water of River Ganges on the occasion of 'Makar Sankranti', one of the most auspicious occasions for Hindus, when the sun begins to move northwards and days begin to increase in duration than the night time, and to herald Maha Kumbh, a religious fair that occurs once in 12 years.
Makar Sankrati marks the northward journey of the sun as it enters a new zodiac, which coincides with the beginning of longer days.
Devotees braving freezing temperatures thronged the banks to take a dip at the Sangam, a confluence of Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers, in Allahabad at dawn on Thursday.
"Prayag (place of the confluences), this holiest place in India is considered to be very sacred. And the holy men come here uninvited on this day to take dip here in Ganges on the day of Makar Sankranti," said Talukdar Yadav, a devotee.
Upstream the Ganges at another holy city at Varanasi devotees thronged the its famous Ghats (bathing places on riverbank) amidst tight security.
"It's a festival of Kichri (porridge). It's a big day for the Hindus to make offerings." Ramesh Tiwari, another devotee.
Eating porridge is on this occasion is considered auspicious among Hindus.
Devotees believe that a holy dip during Makar Sankranti cleanse them of all their sins..
Makar Sankrati also heralds the coming of spring and the excitement of it is celebrated in a number of ways: with food, family gatherings, street fairs, music and kite flying. As the winds change to herald the northward advancement of the sun, the winter sky in western Gujarat bursts into colour with thousands of paper kites.
The festival, which coincides with the winter harvest, is celebrated widely across the country and is known by different names.
While the festival is known as Makar Sankranti in parts of north and northwest India, it is celebrated as "Pongal" in the south and as "Bihu" in the northeast. By Virender Pathak / Girish Kr. Dubey(ANI)