Bhubaneswar, Jan 24 (PTI) Thousands of devotees today took a holy dip at the Chandrabhaga beach near the famed Konark Sun Temple as part of Magha Saptami celebrations amidst a state-wide shutdown in Odisha by opposition Congress and BJP.

The day is celebrated as the birthday of the Sun God.

The devotees waited at the beach for the sun to appear in the sky before taking the dip, after which they offered prayers.

According to mythology, Lord Krishna’s son Samba was cured of leprosy by offering prayer to the Sun God at Chandrabhaga beach. The devotees take a holy dip on the seventh day of the new moon of the month of ‘Magha’ in the belief that this ritual will cleanse them of their sins and rid them of skin diseases.

The police, who made elaborate security arrangement for the festival, said the devotees had a tough time returning to their homes due to the strike. They had to wait for long hours to catch a bus.

The opposition parties have called the bandh to protest against the alleged suicide by a teenager who had claimed that she had been raped by four men in uniform on October 10 at Kunduli in Maoist-affected Koraput district.

They said the teenager had taken the drastic step as she felt she had been denied justice.

The Human Rights Protection Cell of Odisha police had in its report to the Odisha Human Rights Commission claimed that the girl was not raped.

The girl had directly accused the police of putting pressure on her to change her statement and had alleged that she was offered money by Odisha Director General of Police R P Sharma, a charge which was denied by the state’s top police officer.

The state government had ordered a crime branch probe and judicial inquiry into the alleged rape.

On the occasion of Magha Saptami, a ‘Kumbha Mela’ was also organised at Khandagiri hills in the state capital.

A large number of monks and and followers of various Hindu religious sects from across the country have assembled here for a week-long religious and cultural event.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.