The Makar Sankranti spirit on Friday was not dampened by two separate bans on lethal kite string and animal and bird sports that are integral part of the festivity.
The razor-sharp kite string, popularly known as manza, blamed for many human and animal deaths across the country, was available on several e-commerce websites despite a nationwide ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal.
Defying Supreme Court’s ban, people also continued with the tradition of cock fights in Andhra Pradesh and Assam, bull cart race in Punjab and Maharashtra and Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu.
Makar Sankranti marks an end of inauspicious month of Malmaas and transition of Sun into zodiacal sign of Makar (Capricorn) to herald a change in season and also mood of people.
It is celebrated across the country in different names. While in north it is celebrated as Lohri, in Assam as Bihu and in south as Pongal.
For the last few years the celebration in Tamil Nadu, however, had been mired in political controversy over the SC’s decision to ban bull-taming sport Jallikattu saying it causes torture to the animal.
The ban has evoked strong reactions with even celebrities like Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth opposing it saying one cannot curb tradition in the name of animal welfare.
Political parties in Tamil Nadu on Friday organised protests across the state against the Supreme Court’s refusal to pronounce a verdict on a clutch of petitions challenging a notification by the Centre allowing Jallikattu this year before the four-day Pongal festival got underway on Friday.
Protesters also disrupted a film shooting, venting their anger at popular actress Trisha who had campaigned for animal rights group PETA against Jallikattu, police said.
The protesters announced that they will not allow her to shoot in Tamil Nadu if she did not apologise and withdraw her support to the animal rights organisation.
The first day of the festivity, known as Bhogi, began with people burning discarded items. Thai Pongal, which is the main day of the festivities, will be celebrated on Saturday. Traditionally, pongal is made in households across the state using freshly harvested rice grains.
Maatu Pongal, observed on the third day, is when traditionally Jallikattu events are held.
Assam celebrated the mid-January Bhogali or Magh Bihu -- festival of feasting from Friday night. While officially there was no buffalo (Ahatguri in central Assam) and bulbul bird (Hayagriva Madhava Temple complex at Hajo, west of Guwahati) fights in view of the Supreme Court ban, sources say such fights might have been organised unofficially considering the sentiment of the locals attached to them.
In Madha Pradesh, holy bath and pooja are witnessed on the bathing ghats of Narmada river at Amarkantak, Jabalpur, Omkareshwar, Hoshangabad and several other places.
In north, where Lohri marks beginning of harvest season in Punjab and Haryana, the dip in January temperature to close to zero degree Celsius too failed to dampen much the festive spirit.
Lohri bonfires and cultural events marked the festivity. This year farmers expect a good winter crop because of above normal monsoon, an added reason for cheer.
Apart from traditions and rituals associated with the festivity, in states like Hayana and Rajasthan, Makar Sankranti is being celebrated to propagate girl child through campaigns such as “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” and “Hamara Garv, Hamari Betiyan”.
In Rajasthan, scholarships will be given to girls for school to college studies.
(With inputs from Allahabad, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Chennai, Guwahati and New Delhi)