Culture | Slideshow: India's spectacular religious festivals
  • Hindu women sit around fires to keep warm before taking holy baths at Saali River during the Swasthani Brata Katha festival at Sankhu in Kathmandu, Nepal, January 12, 2017.  REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2YKYD
    Hindu women sit around fires to keep warm before taking holy baths at Saali River during the Swasthani Brata Katha festival at Sankhu in Kathmandu, Nepal, January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2YKYD
  • A Sadhu or a Hindu holy man prays as he takes a dip at Sangam, a confluence of three rivers, the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival in Allahabad, India, January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash
    A Sadhu or a Hindu holy man prays as he takes a dip at Sangam, a confluence of three rivers, the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival in Allahabad, India, January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash
  • Devotees prepare rice dishes to offer to the Hindu Sun God as they attend Pongal celebrations early morning in Mumbai, India, January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade
    Devotees prepare rice dishes to offer to the Hindu Sun God as they attend Pongal celebrations early morning in Mumbai, India, January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade
  • An aerial view shows Hindu devotees at the main point of the Sangam where the rivers Ganga and Yamuna meet, as well as the mythical Saraswati, during the Magh Mela festival in Allahabad on January 14, 2017.
The Magh Mela is held every year on the banks of Triveni Sangam - the confluence of the three great rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mystical Saraswati - in Prayag near Allahabad during the Hindu month of Magh which corresponds to mid January - mid February. / AFP PHOTO / Sanjay KANOJIA
    An aerial view shows Hindu devotees at the main point of the Sangam where the rivers Ganga and Yamuna meet, as well as the mythical Saraswati, during the Magh Mela festival in Allahabad on January 14, 2017. The Magh Mela is held every year on the banks of Triveni Sangam - the confluence of the three great rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mystical Saraswati - in Prayag near Allahabad during the Hindu month of Magh which corresponds to mid January - mid February. / AFP PHOTO / Sanjay KANOJIA
  • A Hindu pilgrim takes a dip at the confluence of the river Ganges and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival at Sagar Island. Photo: Reuters/
    A Hindu pilgrim takes a dip at the confluence of the river Ganges and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival at Sagar Island. Photo: Reuters/
  • Devotees prepare rice dishes to offer to the Hindu Sun God as they attend Pongal celebrations early morning in Mumbai, India, January 14, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Shailesh Andrade
    Devotees prepare rice dishes to offer to the Hindu Sun God as they attend Pongal celebrations early morning in Mumbai, India, January 14, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Shailesh Andrade
  • Devotees prepare rice dishes to offer to the Hindu Sun God as they attend Pongal celebrations early morning in Mumbai, India, January 14, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Shailesh Andrade
    Devotees prepare rice dishes to offer to the Hindu Sun God as they attend Pongal celebrations early morning in Mumbai, India, January 14, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Shailesh Andrade
  • Indian fire fighters douse a fire among the temporary tents used by the state police officials as bystanders watch on Gangasagar Island, around 150 kms south of Kolkata on January 14, 2017.
More than 700,000 Hindu pilgrims and sadhus - holy men - are expected to gather at the confluence of the River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal during the Gangasagar Mela to take a 'holy dip' in the ocean on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, a holy day of the Hindu calendar considered to be of great religious significance in Hindu mythology.
 / AFP PHOTO / Dibyangshu SARKAR
    Indian fire fighters douse a fire among the temporary tents used by the state police officials as bystanders watch on Gangasagar Island, around 150 kms south of Kolkata on January 14, 2017. More than 700,000 Hindu pilgrims and sadhus - holy men - are expected to gather at the confluence of the River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal during the Gangasagar Mela to take a 'holy dip' in the ocean on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, a holy day of the Hindu calendar considered to be of great religious significance in Hindu mythology. / AFP PHOTO / Dibyangshu SARKAR
  • Devotees prepare rice dishes to offer to the Hindu Sun God as they attend Pongal celebrations. Photo: Reuters/Shailesh Andrade
    Devotees prepare rice dishes to offer to the Hindu Sun God as they attend Pongal celebrations. Photo: Reuters/Shailesh Andrade
  • Devotees prepare rice dishes to offer to the Hindu Sun God. Photo: Reuters/Shailesh Andrade
    Devotees prepare rice dishes to offer to the Hindu Sun God. Photo: Reuters/Shailesh Andrade
  • A Sadhu or a Hindu holy man takes a dip at the confluence of the river Ganges and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival at Sagar Island, south of Kolkata, India, January 14, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
    A Sadhu or a Hindu holy man takes a dip at the confluence of the river Ganges and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival at Sagar Island, south of Kolkata, India, January 14, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
  • A Sadhu or a Hindu holy man carrying his pet monkey walks after taking a dip at the confluence of the river Ganges and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival at Sagar Island, south of Kolkata, India, January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
    A Sadhu or a Hindu holy man carrying his pet monkey walks after taking a dip at the confluence of the river Ganges and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival at Sagar Island, south of Kolkata, India, January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
  • A Hindu pilgrim (2nd R) loses her balance after she along with other pilgrims were hit by a wave as they take a dip at the confluence of the river Ganges and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival at Sagar Island, south of Kolkata, India, January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
    A Hindu pilgrim (2nd R) loses her balance after she along with other pilgrims were hit by a wave as they take a dip at the confluence of the river Ganges and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival at Sagar Island, south of Kolkata, India, January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
  • Hindu pilgrims leave after taking a dip at the confluence of the river Ganges and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival at Sagar Island, south of Kolkata, India, January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
    Hindu pilgrims leave after taking a dip at the confluence of the river Ganges and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival at Sagar Island, south of Kolkata, India, January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
  • Hindu devotees take a dip at Sangam, a confluence of three rivers, the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival in Allahabad, India, January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash
    Hindu devotees take a dip at Sangam, a confluence of three rivers, the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival in Allahabad, India, January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash
  • A Hindu man and his son hold burning incense sticks and a candle as they pray after taking a dip in the waters of river Howrah on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival in Chakmaghat village in the northeastern state of Tripura , India, January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jayanta Dey
    A Hindu man and his son hold burning incense sticks and a candle as they pray after taking a dip in the waters of river Howrah on the occasion of "Makar Sankranti" festival in Chakmaghat village in the northeastern state of Tripura , India, January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jayanta Dey

Joyous celebration

Devotees gather at temples and rivers to celebrate Pongal

January 15, 2017 10:30 AM (UTC+8)

India’s Hindu pilgrims celebrated on Saturday the beginning of Uttarayana, the sun’s movement northward for six months, in the annual Pongal festival that also marks the end of the farming season.

In Hinduism, Uttarayana is considered auspicious, as opposed to Dakshinaayana, or the southern movement of the sun.

Pongal, which is the only festival that follows the solar calendar, has astronomical significance. All important events are scheduled during this period. Makara Sankranthi refers to the event of the sun entering the zodiac sign of Makara or Capricorn.

In Hindu temples, bells, drums, clarinets and conch shells herald the joyous occasion of Pongal, which also signals the end of the traditional farming season, giving people a break from their monotonous routine.

To symbolize a bountiful harvest, rice is cooked in new pots until they boil over. Some of the rituals performed in the temple include the preparation of rice, the chanting of prayers and the offering of vegetables, sugar cane and spices to the gods. Devotees then consume the offerings to exonerate themselves of past sins.

Farmers also perform puja to some crops, marking the end of the traditional farming season. It also sets the pace for a series of festivals to follow in a calendar year.

Four festivals are celebrated in Tamil Nadu for four consecutive days in that week. Bogi is celebrated on January 13, Pongal on January 14, Maattuppongal on January 15, and Thiruvalluvar Day on January 16.

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