India embraced the New Year with boisterous midnight revelry and religious devotion on Thursday. The celebrations however left two people dead in Hyderabad.
In virtually every major city and town, people — mostly the young — welcomed 2015 with music and dancing. As the clock struck 12 midnight, firecrackers went off and motorists honked their horns.
Indoor parties raged through the night — at homes, in pubs and hotels. Hundreds of thousands of SMS greetings clogged the mobile network at night.
The celebrations were most marked in major cities including New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chandigarh, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished the people a “wonderful” New Year.
“Wishing you and your family a wonderful 2015. May this year bring immense happiness, peace and prosperity in everyone’s lives,” he said.
With Vaikuntha Ekadasi, a holy day for Hindus, coinciding with the first day of 2015, millions thronged major temples all over India, with the hill shrine at Tirupati bursting at the seams.
Bollywood celebrated in its own way.
Megastar Amitabh Bachchan, 72, welcomed 2015 on a quiet note. The actor, who lives with his family in Mumbai, said new year comes with new goals as well as aspirations.
Other film celebrities also reached out to fans.
Lata Mangeshkar tweeted: “Wish you all a very happy New Year. I hope the year brings in a lot of happiness. God bless u all.”
Arjun Rampal added: “Happy New Year… 2015 is gonna be a super year for all. This is my prediction. Love and Luck to all.”
Shekhar Kapur gave his touch: “Let 2015 be the year of Screaming. Scream for justice for all. Scream for equality for all. Scream for protection of women. Scream for good.”
While people do visit temples on New Year, the Ekadasi turned the usual crowds into a devotional rush.
Long queues of devotees were seen at the major temples in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in particular in the morning.
Over two lakh devotees swarmed the Lord Venkateswara temple at Tirupati. A stampede-like situation prevailed as pilgrims vied with each other to get tickets for darshan.
In Karnataka, lakhs observed Vaikuntha Ekadeshi, considered an auspicious day to worship Lord Vishnu. Many observed fasts.
The situation was no different in Puri in Odisha where the Jagannath temple attracted the maximum crowds. One VIP visitor was Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
In Amritsar, thousands converged at the Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple.
People also prayed in other gurdwaras and churches in the country. Many gave away food and clothes – and money — to the poor.
In Shillong, the New Year celebrations included a midnight dip into the icy water of swimming pools, concerts, private parties and prayers. Music, lights and food were the main attractions.
Three prominent Shillong-based rock bands — Cubicles, Dossers Urge and Fourth Element — serenaded the crowds with their popular numbers amid the chilling breeze.
Most celebrations in Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Patiala, Panipat and Ambala were in clubs, discotheques, night clubs, hotels and restaurants, at homes and in farmhouses.
Chandigarh’s Sector 17 Plaza, the main commercial hub, was swarmed with New Year revellers. “There was hardly any space to move around last night,” entrepreneur Sanjay Singh told IANS.
New Year revelry claimed two lives and injured a few others in road accidents in and around Hyderabad.
Thousands of Bangaloreans heralded New Year cheering, dancing, hooting, whistling, bursting crackers and greeting each other. Security was tight in Bengaluru, where a bomb blast killed a woman Dec 28.
At the stroke of midnight, wild celebrations broke out in Hyderabad and other towns of Telangana and in Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada and other towns of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.
In Uttar Pradesh, youngsters and families welcomed 2015 braving intense cold.