Braving pandemic, thousands take holy dip in Himachal rivers

Shimla, Jan 14 (IANS) Braving extreme chill and pandemic, thousands of people across Himachal Pradesh on Thursday took holy dips in rivers to mark Makar Sankranti, a Hindu festival dedicated to the deity Surya.
Since early morning, the devotees were seen congregating at Tattapani, 55 km from the state capital, and Manikaran, home to a Sikh shrine in Kullu district, for taking bath in the Satluj and Parvati rivers, respectively, officials said.
Tattapani and Manikaran are known for hot water springs with high sulphur concentration.
This time special precautions were taken owing to the coronavirus pandemic. Holding of community kitchens to mark the occasions was banned, an official told IANS.
The natural and prominent hot springs, which disappeared after the construction of the 800 MW Koldam hydroelectric power project executed by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) along the Satluj in Tattapani, have been restored. Its reservoir had submerged the hot springs.
The devotees also visited Vashist temple, located on the outskirts of the popular tourist resort Manali.
The temple is situated on the left bank of Beas river, also known for its hot springs.
“This time the rush of the devotees is quite less owing to the pandemic,” Shimla resident Mohit Sood told IANS over phone from Tattapani.
Normally, Tattapani sees more than 25,000 devotees offering prayers during a holy bath on Makar Sankranti at natural hot water springs there.
His family has been holding the traditional ‘khichdi bhandara’ on Makar Sankranti at Tattapani. For the first time in 92 years it was called off.
Last year the ‘khichdi’, weighing 1,995 kg, prepared by the state Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation and Sood’s family owned Durga Devi Bihari Lal Brochan Lal Charitable Trust in a single utensil to mark Makar Sankranti at Tattapani entered the Guinness World Records.
Makar Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of the country.
It also marks the beginning of warmer and longer days compared to the nights.

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