Uttarayan: Amit Shah visits temple in Ahmedabad, flies kites

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(Eds: Adds details) Ahmedabad, Jan 14 (PTI) Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday celebrated the Uttarayan festival in Ahmedabad in a low-key manner in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shah, who is on a visit to his hometown on the occasion of the festival, offered prayers at the Lord Jagannath Temple here with his family members to mark the day.

Later in the day, he flew kites on terraces of houses of his relatives at two places in the city.

Shah, the Lok Sabha MP from Gandhinagar, started his day by offering prayers at the temple along with his family members.

He performed an 'aarti' and also worshipped a cow and an elephant at the temple as per tradition.

Tight security arrangements were made at the temple ahead of his visit.

'On the auspicious occasion of Uttarayan, offered prayers at the famous Shri Jagannath Temple in Ahmedabad today.

'May Lord Jagannath extend his blessings to all. Jai Jagannath!' Shah tweeted in Hindi.

Unlike in the past when Shah used to visit residences of local BJP leaders to fly kites along with his supporters, the Union minister celebrated the festival this time with his family members.

He visited the houses of his relatives and flew kites on terraces of buildings in the city's Thaltej and Ghatlodia localities.

He was greeted by his supporters at both the places where he stayed briefly.

Several Gujarat leaders kept the celebration low-key with Chief Minister Vijay Rupani skipping flying kites in his hometown of Rajkot.

Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel preferred to mark the day by inaugurating a flyover and a newly-constructed road between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.

The Gujarat government has banned flying kites in open grounds or public areas.

The government has also prohibited loudspeakers and sound amplifier systems, and allowed only family members and residents of housing societies on terraces to avoid large gatherings in view of the pandemic.

People across the state kept the celebrations simple in view of the COVID-19-related restrictions.

In many places, people flew kits on terraces of their houses in small groups and did not play loud music.

Long queues were seen at some places outside shops selling traditional delicacies like 'Undhiyu', but people were largely seen following social distancing norms.

The police kept a strict vigil to ensure people follow the government's guidelines on COVID-19 prevention.

To prevent large gatherings, the police used drone cameras and binoculars to keep an eye on terraces of high-rise buildings and open grounds.

Patrolling was also intensified in some sensitive areas of Ahmedabad, a police official said.

Makar Sankranti, a harvest festival, is celebrated as Uttarayan in Gujarat. Kite flying, making delicacies with til (sesame seeds) and gur (jaggery), taking a holy bath in rivers are part of Uttarayan festivities.

Makar Sankranti marks the end of the winter solstice month and beginning of longer days. PTI KA PD GK RSY RSY