The Indian President, Pratibha Patil; the Vice President, Hamid Ansari; and Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, spoke to the nation, on the occasion of Makara Sankranti and Pongal, the agriculture-related festive season.
The President, in her statement, said: "On the auspicious occasion of Makara Sankranti and Pongal, I express my greetings to all the people of India and wish them prosperity and happiness. These festivals are expressions of the emotional unity that is our nation's strength. May the celebrations reinforce the ties that bind us together as a nation, in peace and harmony."
The Vice President, Hamid Ansari, also released a statement, in which he said these festivals were celebrated across the country with all the traditional fervor and gaiety and marked the beginning of "Uttarayana" and the harvest season.
"May these festivals bring peace, prosperity and happiness to the citizens of our country," his statement added.
Finally, in a statement from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), Manmohan Singh said: "that these harvest festivals are an occasion to recognize the immense contribution that our farmers make to the well-being of the country. May these festivals bring prosperity, happiness and joy for all."
The festival is celebrated every year for four days, from Jan. 13 to Jan. 16, as Bhogi, Pongal, Mattu Pongal and Kanum Pongal.
On the first day, old clothes and materials are thrown onto a bonfire, symbolically marking the beginning of a new life.
On the second (Pongal) day, another symbolic act (the boiling of milk in a vessel) is performed to welcome the new agricultural year. On this day people also prepare various dishes, savories and sweets and visit each other's homes to exchange greetings.
The third day - Mattu Pongal - is meant to offer thanks to the bulls and buffaloes, as they help people plough the lands for cultivation.
On the last day, Kanum Pongal, people visit public spaces and carnivals, to celebrate their prosperity. Also on this day, a traditional (now banned) bull-fighting festival - jallikattu - is held, in and around the south Indian cities of Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjore.