Scores of people gathered on the shores of Elliots Beach to participate in the flag-hoisting ceremony of the ten-day annual feast celebrations at Annai Velankanni Shrine here on Sunday.

From morning, the roads leading to Besant Nagar were dotted with people walking from various places, including Mannadi, Little Mount, Alandur and Porur. Paul Rajendran, who has been attending the celebrations for 15 years in a row, says the overwhelming crowd was a symbol of unity and peace.

Despite additional buses introduced for the festival, many buses plying towards Besant Nagar were overcrowded. There was traffic pile-up in the evening on Besant Nagar Avenue Road and M.G. Road. Several people came walking from their homes. For V. Saraswati, who has been a witness to the celebrations for years, walking for hours at a stretch has never been a problem. “It has in fact improved my health,” says the 80-year-old lady from Pulicat.

The year, being the ‘Year of the Youth' of the Shrine, attracted a large number of youngsters, many carrying candles in different shapes. The flag-hoisting ceremony marks the inauguration of the festival. On the final day, the flag will be lowered following a mass to declare the completion of the ten-day feast.

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