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Crowds surge at key streets, city centres and shrines as India ushers in New Year sans COVID curbs


STATE TIMES NEWS

New Delhi: Large crowds thronged popular boulevards, tourist hubs and entertainment centres across India and many joined special prayers at places of worship on Sunday as people stepped out to celebrate the New Year without COVID restrictions. With no major pandemic-related curbs by authorities except advisories to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, revellers marked the beginning of 2023 with gusto, while police kept a tight vigil and hundreds of people faced action for traffic violations like drunk driving.
There were massive traffic snarls across the national capital, especially near the India Gate and Connaught Place, while metro stations were teeming with people as many preferred to enjoy outdoors on a sunny Sunday after muted New Year celebrations for two years due to COVID-19.
In Jammu and Kashmir, devotees lined up to pay obeisance at the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in the Reasi district. Similar scenes were seen elsewhere including the ghats of Varanasi and the shores of Kanyakumari and Puri.
According to data shared by Delhi police, as many as 1,329 motorists were prosecuted for committing various violations, which included 318 for drunk driving and 175 for dangerous driving. Also, 53 vehicles were impounded on the spot.
Special pickets were set up at major points like Connaught Place, Mehrauli, Saket, Nehru Place, Vasant Vihar and South-Extension. The cases of drunken driving in the national capital on New Year’s eve were over 12 times compared to the previous year, officials said on Sunday.
Mumbai Police took action against 2,465 people for traffic violations, including drunk driving, during the New Year celebrations, officials said.
The Gujarat police cracked down on people found consuming liquor, drinking and driving and violating traffic rules during New Year celebrations in the dry state. In Vadodara city alone, at least 3,000 suspects were intercepted and checked, and 89 cases of liquor consumption were registered in 24 hours till Sunday morning, an official said.
In Kolkata, people of all ages were seen enjoying picnics and flocking to cinema halls and restaurants.
Restaurants in Kolkata and the nearby towns saw long queues outside, while many swarmed Alipore Zoo, Victoria Memorial Hall, Eco Park and Nicco Park.
Thousands of people gathered at the Kashipur Udyanbati in north Kolkata for the annual ‘Kalpataru Utsav’. It is believed that on this day in 1886, Ramakrishna Paramahansa was blessed with the inner vision (‘Chaitanya’) at this house.
A large number of people also visited the Kalighat temple and Dakshineswar temple.
Temples witnessed arrangements for special ‘poojas’ and ‘abishekams’ from early morning, midnight masses were held in churches and chapels and a large number of people visited gurdwaras and other shrines to seek divine blessings for the new year.
Popular tourist destinations were choc-a-bloc, with people making the most of the winter holidays by heading to hill stations and seaside resorts.
Roads leading to various beaches in Goa witnessed massive traffic jams after midnight on Sunday as lakhs of people turned up on the state’s seashore to welcome the New Year.
A number of people attended midnight masses in churches and chapels.
The state started witnessing a rush of domestic and international tourists ahead of Christmas for the celebrations which continue till the New Year.
A senior police official said no untoward incident was reported during the celebrations.
“Police maintained a strict vigil on the beaches. We had also rounded up anti-social elements ahead of the festivities,” he said.
People wearing facemasks visited temples and churches across Telangana and offered prayers.
Devotees thronged Lord Venkateshwara temples in Hyderabad besides Laxmi Narasimha Swamy Temple in Yadagirigutta and other temples. Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan and state Ministers also visited temples and offered prayers.
Colourful rangolis with ‘Happy New Year 2023’ messages were drawn in front of homes even as people also burst crackers, cut cakes and played new year songs welcoming 2023.
Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann was among those who paid obeisance at Gurdwara Singh Shaheedan Sohana on New Year.
Nagaland welcomed the new year with firework displays and special prayer services in churches.
Thousands of devotees from across Odisha and other states queued outside the 12th-century Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri.
The Puri district administration had made elaborate security arrangements.
As many tourists also visit the sea beach to have a bath before going to the temple, a large number of lifeguards were stationed at designated bathing points along the beach to prevent incidents of drowning, said Puri, SP, Kanwar Vishal Singh
“We sought blessings of Lord Jagannath on the first day of the New Year. May 2023 bring happiness and prosperity to all,” said a devotee.

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