New Delhi: Marking the departure of winter
and heralding the harvesting season, Makar Sankranti, Bihu and
Pongal were celebrated across the country today by people who
took a dip in sacred rivers and ponds to wash off their sins.
Devouts in north India braved the biting cold and lined up
before various temples to offer prayers.
In Haridwar, thousands of devotees took a holy dip in the
Ganga on the first day of the three-month-long Maha Kumbh,
considered the largest religious congregation that takes place
once in 12 years.
Makar Sankranti is also known as Uttarayan, a day when the
sun starts moving northwards marking the decline of winter.
According to a belief, Surya (sun) visits the house of his
son Shani (saturn), who is the ruler of Makar Rashi (zodiac
sign Capricorn). The father and son usually do not get along
well, but the Sun god makes it a point to meet his son on this
day of this month.
In West Bengal, seven pilgrims were killed and 17 injured
in a stampede at the Gangasagar mela where lakhs of pilgrims
had converged to take a holy dip on the occasion.
The stampede took place when a staircase leading to a
river jetty broke down when the pilgrims were about to board a
vessel to cross the Muri Ganga river and reach the Gangasagar
islands, police said.
Around four lakh pilgrims had gathered to take a holy dip
at the confluence of Ganga and the Bay of Bengal.
Lakhs of people in Bihar took bath in various sacred
rivers and ponds and offered prayers at different temples on
the occasion of Makar Sankranti. They later took `Tilkut`, a
special sweet, curd and `chura` (beaten rice) as per custom.