New Delhi, Jan 14 (PTI) Makar Sankranti, heralding theharvest season, was celebrated across the country today bylakhs of people who took holy dip in rivers and ponds.
Devouts in north India braved cold weather conditions andlined up before various temples to offer prayers. The festivalwill also be celebrated tomorrow in many areas.
Amidst tight security, lakhs of devotees thronged theconfluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical river Saraswati atAllahabad to take holy dip and participate in the annualreligious congregation of Magh Mela.
Long queues of devotees were seen outside various templessituated in the vicinity of the Sangam and near the banks ofGanga and Yamuna.
In Haridwar too, devotees took holy dip in the Ganga atHar Ki Pauri. However, the turnout was less this time due tosevere cold and fog.
Makar Sankranti was celebrated in Rajasthan with fullfervour with devouts making a beeline to the holy Pushkar lakein Ajmer, about 100 km from Jaipur and thronging Galta Teerthin the state capital.
In Jaipur, the blue sky was dotted with colourful kites onthe occasion. The state government organised a kite festivalnear Jalmahal on Amber road in the city.
Makar Sankranti is also known as Uttarayan, a day when thesun starts moving northwards marking the decline of winter.
According to a belief, Surya (sun) visits the house of hisson Shani (saturn), who is the ruler of Makar Rashi (zodiacsign Capricorn). The father and son usually do not get alongwell, but the Sun god makes it a point to meet his son on thisday of this month.
In Jharkhand, devout Hindus bathed in various rivers andponds in places including Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad andHazaribagh and enjoyed delicacies like ''Tilkut'', a specialsweet, curd and ''chura'' (beaten rice) as per custom.
People in Bihar took bath in various sacred rivers andponds and offered prayers at different temples.
In the national capital too, Makar Sankranti wascelebrated with mirth as there was some respite from the coldafter a slight rise in night temperature. .
A large number of devotees from Punjab and neighbouring areas, including Haryana and Rajasthan, took dip in pondsattached to various historic Gurdwaras in and around Muktsarin Punjab on the occasion of Maghi Mela.
The Mela is held in the memory of 40 Muktas (theredeemed), who sacrificed their lives fighting the Mughals inthe last battle of the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh in 1705.
According to history, the Guru personally cremated the martyrson Sankrant of Maghi- the day following the festival of Lohri.
After the dip the devotees, including women and children,listened to ''Shabad Kirtan'' and took ''langar'' (communitykitchen).
People in Orissa prepared special dishes with rice, milk,butter and coconut and offered them to the Sun God on theoccasion.
Colourful rangoli, traditional bonfire and cultural showsmarked the beginning of the three-day Pongal festival, knownas the mother of festivals by Telugu community in Silk City ofBerhampur on the Orissa-Andhra border. At some places, Oriyasjoined the Telugu-speaking people to celebrate the festival.
The main Pongal festival will be celebrated tomorrow insouth India.
In Kerala, lakhs of devotees converged at the hill shrineof Sabarimala for the ''makara samkrama pooja'', marking the endof the two-month-long pilgrimage to Lord Ayyappa temple.
Pilgrims had been camping at atop the hill, situated onWestern Ghats at an altitude of 3000 feet above sea level, inmakeshift tents and shacks, with devotees from Andhra Pradesh,Tamil Nadu and Karnataka forming a major chunk.
Thousands pilgrims braved cold weather and fog in themorning to take bath at the confluence of Ganga and the Bay ofBengal at Ganga Sagar Island in West Bengal.