Vijayawada/Hyderabad: The Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on Monday celebrated Sankranti, a major harvest festival, with traditional fervour.
Towns and villages in both the states came alive as the three-day celebrations kicked off with 'Bhogi' or burning of old and unwanted items like old clothes, mats and broom sticks in the belief that new things will usher into their lives.
Men, women and children went around the bonfires with prayers. The fire provided relief to the participants from the chilly weather. Many sang and danced around the fire.
In Guntur, a group of youths dumped Prime Minister Narendra Modi's effigy in the fire as a mark of protest for not according special category status to Andhra Pradesh.
A festive atmosphere prevailed in residential colonies in Hyderabad and the outskirts besides Vijayawada, Guntur, Visakhapatnam and other towns and villages in both the states.
The day began with womenfolk cleaning their houses and decorating the entrances with intricate 'rangoli' designs. They also set cow-dung balls called 'Gobbemma' and placed a fresh harvest of rice, turmeric and sugarcane. The houses were decorated with marigold flowers and mango leaves.
Sankranti is a major festival, which highlights the rich Telugu culture.
Lakhs of people employed in Hyderabad headed to their homes in various districts in both the states.
The Telangana government waived off toll tax on highways to prevent traffic jams at toll plazas and enable people to reach their destinations on time.
The Andhra Pradesh government also waived off the toll on commuters heading to their native places for the festival. Many Telugu people working abroad were also visiting their families.
Railways operated extra trains and bus corporations in both the states operated additional bus services to clear the holiday rush.
'Haridasus' and 'Basvannas', the uniquely attired alm seekers with ornately decorated ox, made rounds of the villages. Youths took to kite flying across the two states.
The families, after offering prayers in temples, prepare various dishes, especially Pongal -- made of rice and daal. Decoration of bulls, cock-fight, bull fight and other rural sports mark the festival.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan, Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao greeted people on the occasion.
Naidu, his son and cabinet minister Nara Lokesh and other family members took part in Sankranti celebrations in their village Naravaripalle in Chittoor district.