Bhubaneswar, Jan 14 (IANS) Millions of people in Odisha Monday took a ritualistic dips in ponds and rivers and visited temples across the state as they celebrated the harvest festival of Makar Sankranti.
More than two lakh devotees visited the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri, about 55 km from here, to witness the special rituals performed by temple priests on the occasion.
"The Jagannath temple will remain open for devotees till late night. More devotees are likely to arrive," Laxmidhar Puja Panda, public relations officer of the temple, told IANS.
People in several places of the state prepared special sweet rice made with sugar, banana, coconut and black pepper and offered it to the gods. They also distributed the special rice popularly known as Makar Chaula.
Makar Sankranti is considered one of the most auspicious days by Hindus. Many believe that a ritual bath at ponds and rivers and prayers at temples on the occasion would cleanse them of diseases and wash away sins.
Thousands of devotees also worshipped the sun god at Konark with great fervour and enthusiasm. The festival marks the beginning of the annual swing of the sun northwards, according to various Indian calendars.
Tribal groups lit bonfires, danced and organised feasts in various places of Mayurbhanj, Balasore, Keonjhar and Sundergarh districts.
Kite-flying competitions were organised in places like Cuttack and other towns with fun and enthusiasm.