The devout offered goods made of "til" (sesame) to the poor, an act of charity believed to bring spiritual benefit on Makar Sankranti when the Sun enters the Tropic of Capricorn. In Allahabad, thousands converged at the Sangam, the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, to take holy dip on Makar Sankranti which marks the decline of winter.
The worshippers had to walk on foot for a long distance due to traffic and security restrictions. Long-winding queues of devotees were seen outside the temples in the vicinity of the Sangam as nearly 5,000 police personnel kept a hawk-eye vigil to maintain law and order.
Vendors selling goods made of sesame and jaggery did roaring business. Colourful kites dotted the skyline of many towns on the occasion with children, young and old camping themselves on rooftops to enjoy the festival. In Pink City Jaipur, where Makar Sakranti is celebrated as a festival of kites, enthusiasts perched themselves on the roof of their houses at the break of dawn to fly kites.
President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh greeted the nation on the occasion, hoping the festival would usher in prosperity, growth and progress.
Pongal celebrated in Tamil Nadu
Pongal, the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, was celebrated with traditional fervour across the state on Tuesday.
Variously hailed as "Tamilar Thirunal,"(festival of Tamils), "Uzhavar Thirunal" (farmers' carnival), and "Aruvadai Thirunal," (harvest festival)" the Pongal celebrations got off to a colourful start early in the morning.
In both urban and rural regions, streets in residential localities were decked up with colourful ornate drawings out of flour (Kolam in Tamil).
Houses were decorated with mango leaves and festoons. Prayers were held and sweet rice (Pongal) was the main offering to the Sun God.
In several towns like Agastheeswaram in Kanniyakumari district, "Community Pongal" was celebrated in which people cutting across social strata come together to observe the festival.
While traditional sport like "Jallikattu", "Rekla" race, involving bulls, and Kabbadi were attractions in rural and semi-urban areas, in cities like Chennai, people preferred to visit amusement parks and beaches besides cinema houses for new films.
Special prayers were held in temples on the occasion. Temple elephants, now at a rejuvenation camp in Thekkampatti on the foothills of Nilgiris district, prostrated before Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, and they were offered Pongal.
Another added speciality to Pongal is that it falls on the first day of the Tamil month 'Thai' which is considered as harbinger of hope, signified by the old Tamil saying "Thai piranthal vazhi pirakkum'(you will find a way, with the birth of Thai)', and new endeavours can be taken up.
Pongal celebrations will continue for two more days.