Hyderabad: The streets of Hyderabad looked almost deserted on Monday as thousands of families visited their home towns for Sankranti, the Telugu harvest festival.
The intersections, usually chock-a-block with vehicular traffic, looked empty and the city roads breathed easy as fewer buses and private vehicles plied.
An estimated 2.5 million people have returned to their native places in different parts of Andhra Pradesh to join parents or other family members for the festival.
Huge traffic snarls and smoke emanating from vehicles is a common sight in the busy areas of the city like Ameerpet, Panjagutta, Kukatpally, Khairatabad, Himayatnagar Begumpet, Secunderabad and other business and trade hubs. Over the last two days, however, motorists have been zipping through these areas.
With the three-day festival continuing till Tuesday and many educational institutions declaring holidays for the week, the state capital may enjoy an extended break.
"On no other festival do people travel home in such large numbers. It is an occasion to spend time with near and dear ones," said Satish Kumar, an employee of a private firm, who has gone to his native Vijayawada.
Hyderabad, which witnessed unprecedented economic activity and emerged as a key Information Technology hub in India over the last 15 years, has a population of eight million. According to officials, 24 percent of the city population comprises migrants from other parts the country.
Even among those from within the state, a large number of people have extended families in other parts of Andhra Pradesh, especially the coastal Andhra region.
Even the 35 special trains operated by the railways and the over 4,000 special buses run by the Road Transport Corporation to deal with the festival rush were not sufficient.
The private bus operators made a fast buck by charging commuters double the normal fare.
Many people hired cabs and those who could not afford such travel used trucks and whatever other mode of transport was available to reach their native places.
There were many families who headed for their home towns in their own swanky cars.
Such was the mad rush that the Hyderabad-Vijayawada highway was choked on Friday and Saturday.
Five- to seven-km-long traffic jams were seen at toll gates, as authorities were unprepared to deal with the unprecedented rush.
About 30,000 vehicles passed through the toll gate at Nakrekal on the highway.
Sankranti offers an opportunity to many to re-visit their roots. A large number of techies, students, government and private firm employees and also businessmen from coastal Andhra never miss the opportunity to visit their families at this time.
For the children who travel outside the city, this is a time of enjoying the countryside. They celebrate the holiday by visiting fields, flying kites, watching decorated bulls, cock-fights and bullock-cart races. Many rural sports are organised at this time.