Kakdwip/Allahabad/Lucknow, Jan 15 (ANI): Thousands of devotees took a holy dip in the River Ganges on the concluding day of the auspicious occasion of 'Makar Sankranti' in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh on Saturday.
According to Hindu beliefs, taking a dip in the river purifies the soul, fulfils wishes of the devotees, and enables them to escape the cycle of rebirth.
Around 10 million pilgrims have come this year alone for the holy dip at the Gangasagar in West Bengal, the site where the Ganges River flows into the Bay of Bengal.
"By bathing in Gangasagar waters all wishes get granted, and that is why all take a dip in the waters," said Shikha Sharma, a pilgrim from Madhya Pradesh.
At the banks of the Ganges, holy men were seen smoking from 'chillums', or conical pipes.
Many devotees are celebrating Makar Sankranti on Saturday, saying the sun entered the constellation Capricorn at half-past midnight on Saturday.
"Most of the devotees take the holy dip according to the calendar date of January 14, but it was today (January 15) at half-past midnight that the sun changed its position. And this is why a lot of them are taking the holy dip today, especially women. On this occasion, devotees donate to cleanse one from his sins," said Satyanarayan Pandey, a priest.
On the occasion of Makar Sakranti, preparation of 'Khichdi' made of sesame seeds, jaggery, rice, pulses and turmeric is eaten and also offered to the poor.Today the Ganges is prayed to, and sesame seeds, jaggery, rice, pulses and turmeric is donated and also 'Khichdi' prepared out of it is eaten," said Indrakala, a devotee.
Makar Sankranti is one of the major festivals celebrated in various parts of India under different names, custom and rituals. It can be considered as a Pan-Indian festival with regional flavour.
The essence of this festival is the beginning of an auspicious phase, victory of good over the evil and forgiving the past ill feelings and enmity and starting new relationships. Thus, Makar Sankranti has been the festival that signifies the unity of the country in midst of its diversity. (ANI)