BERHAMPUR: Colourful ‘rangoli’, traditional bonfire and cultural shows marked the beginning of the three-day Pongal festival of the Telugu community in Berhampur on Wednesday.
The celebration started with Bhogi, the lighting of bonfire to mark the death of demon king Ravana and on the second day ‘shradha’ will be offered to the ancestors while on the last day on Friday, members of the community will feast together.
With a sizeable Telugu population in this Odisha-Andhra border town, the festival is celebrated with pomp and gaiety. Besides Berhampur, Telugu dominated villages in and around Gopalpur, Chhatrapur and Chikiti in Ganjam district also celebrated the festival with their Odia counterparts.
People donned new attire and greeted each other on the occasion. The delicious ‘Pongali’, prepared with newly harvested rice, dal, jaggery, dry fruits, sugar and milk, capped the celebration on a sweet note.
Telugus form 38 per cent of the population of Southern Odisha districts and it is around 40 per cent in Ganjam district alone. As a majority of the Telugu community is traders, most of the business establishments remained closed on Wednesday. The Odias, for whom Makar Sankranti holds similar importance, congregated at different shrines to offer prayers.
Kalijai comes alive
The sleepy islet of Kalijai on the picturesque Chilika lake came alive on Wednesday with thousands of devotees congregating for Makar Sankranti.
Devout pilgrims and sundry holiday makers from the State thronged the place to offer obeisance to Goddess Kalijai, the presiding deity of fishermen. The devotees come in droves on the day to take a holy dip in the lake which is considered auspicious. To facilitate smooth conduct of the festivity, local boatmen were engaged to ferry people from the shore to the island. The Tourist Department too pressed into service motor boats, deployed police and put in place rescue boats to avert any untoward incident.
Cops on Alert
Ganjam Police are on their toes to prevent cockfight gambling during the Makar Sankranti. Cockfight, which forms a part of Sankranti celebrations in Andhra Pradesh, is prohibited in Odisha. There is possibility of influx of people from Andhra Pradesh bordering Ganjam and Gajapati districts to provoke villagers for the game, police said.
“We have alerted police in vulnerable areas to keep a watch on cockfight,” said SP (Ganjam) Narasingh Bhol.