Hyderabad/Vijayawada: Towns and villages in the Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh came alive on Sunday with Bhogi, the first day of Sankranti.
The three-day harvest festival began in both the states with pomp and gaiety.
A festive atmosphere prevailed with people setting up bonfires or Bhogi on the streets with agricultural and household waste.
The celebrations began in the early hours of the day with people cleaning their houses and burning old items in the belief that new things will usher into their lives.
People gathered at street corners and lit up a fire in which unwanted goods like old clothes, mats and broomsticks. Men and women went around the Bhogi with prayers and sang and danced. The young were seen taking selfies in front of the fire.
The villages were abuzz with activity as thousands employed in Hyderabad and other cities headed to their homes in towns and villages along with their families. Telugu people working abroad are visiting their families.
Over 40 trains and about 4,000 special buses are being operated in both the states for the festival to ferry people from Hyderabad, Vijayawada and other cities to various towns and back.
Villages wore a festive look with women decorating the entrances of houses with intricate ‘rangoli’ designs. Youth took to kite flying.
After thoroughly cleaning their houses, women set cow-dung balls called ‘Gobbemma’ and placed it among the rangoli patterns. They also put a fresh harvest of rice, turmeric and sugarcane.
The houses were decorated with marigold flowers and mango leaves.
‘Haridasus’ and ‘Basvannas’, the uniquely attired alm seekers with ornately decorated ox, made rounds of the villages.
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 are also witnessed.
Despite the court orders banning cock-fights and the warning from police, the fights were organised in several places, especially in coastal Andhra.
Crores of rupees changed hands as politicians of all hues, businessmen and even celebrities bet on the specially bred cocks. The organisers tie small knives to the legs of the two cocks and the fight usually ends with the death of one of them.
Animal lovers have been demanding the authorities to deal firmly with this cruelty to animals. However, politicians belonging to all parties actively participate in cockfights. They argue that it is part of their culture.
The Governor of the two states, E.S.L. Narasimhan, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and his Telangana counterpart K. Chandrasekhar Rao greeted the people on Sankranti.