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Friday, 31 December, 1999, 22:22 GMT
Millennium party follows hostages' return
Transexual prostitutes dance during a millennium rally in Calcutta
Transexuals dance during a millennium rally in Calcutta
By Jill McGivering in Delhi

India's millennium celebrations were more subdued than many other parts of the world - partly because the countdown to the New Year had been overshadowed here by political trauma.

Into 2000
For the last eight days, the nation has been transfixed by coverage of the hijacking of the Indian Airlines aircraft and the fate of more than 150 passengers trapped on board.

News broke on Friday that negotiations had brought a deal.

Hours later, the hostages flew back to Delhi to be met by enthusiastic crowds and tearful relatives - just hours before midnight local time.

The drama preoccupied the country, and, in the end, gave an extra impetus to the party spirit.

In Delhi itself, thousands of local people gathered in the area around Connaught Place, where food stalls had been set up in the open air.

Many danced and sang as midnight came.

Elsewhere in the capital, a number of plush hotels held their own more exclusive celebrations.

In Bombay, thousands of people also took to the streets to dance and party - and the stroke of midnight was marked by the sound of horns from cars and ships.

Tens of thousands of both foreign and Indian tourists flew to Goa to party at the beach resorts there.

The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, holds up a lamp  for world peace on the river Ganges
The Dalai Lama holds up a lamp for world peace on the river Ganges
Along with its parties, India also offered a reflective spiritual mood. In Varanasi, the Dalai Lama and thousands of Hindu and Buddhist monks held a special religious service on the banks of the Ganges.

But in many parts of rural India, the New Year crept in almost unnoticed.

Many people did not even know this was being celebrated worldwide as a landmark anniversary, and did nothing to mark it.

The eastern state of Orissa was one of the most subdued.

Its population is still recovering from the recent cyclone which devastated the area and left millions of people homeless.

The millennium itself is less of a curiosity for India.

According to the Hindu calendar, the year 2000 came and went more than 50 years ago.

But that did not stop many people here from enjoying an international excuse to reflect - and to party, Indian style.

See also:

31 Dec 99 | South Asia
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
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