Prayagraj: In one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, several thousands ofpilgrims and holy men took a dip at the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and the mythical Saraswati, as the Kumbh Mela opened on Tuesday, officials said here.
“We are glad to announce that the first ‘Shahi Snan’ (royal bath) began and concluded at the scheduled time. The participation of all the 13 akharas remained orderly and was successful. Approximately 400,000 devotees took the holy bath,” Dilip Kumar Tripurayan, ADM Kumbh, told reporters.
Soon after midnight Monday, throngs of devotees gathered here for the Kumbh from within the country and abroad began proceeding towards the bathing ghats. Loud religious chanting as well as melodious singing of ‘bhajans’ reverberated through the by-lanes of this Uttar Pradesh city for most of the night.
Visitors reached the ghats that were lit up like Diwali in a hue of multiple colours, amid heightened security and waited for the ‘Shahi Snan’ to begin.
The moment arrived before just dawn around 5 a.m. when, with prayers on their lips, many took the holy dip in the water as cold as ice. The 13 ‘Akharas’ participating in the ‘Shahi Snan’ on Tuesday included Maha Nirvani, Atal, Niranjani, Anand, Juna, Avahan, Panchagni, Nirvani Ani, Digambar Ani, Nirmohi Ani and Naya Udaseen, Bada Udaseen and Nirmala. After a spectacular opening on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, the ongoing Kumbh Mela here is slowly settling down as thousands of devotees who had gathered here for the first of the ‘Shahi Snan’ are making their way back to their homes.
The Kumbh administration has made elaborate preparations for the visitors and expressed happiness at the successful handling of the first day. The next ‘Shahi Snan’ is scheduled to take place on January 21. The Kumbh Mela will reach its culmination on March 4, with the last of the ‘Shahi Snan’ taking place on the occasion of Maha Shivratri. Elaborate security arrangements were in place and pontoon bridges had been built to lead the visitors to the 5-kilometre bathing ghat at Sangam.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted a video on Twitter shortly after the ‘Shahi Snan’ began, marking the official start of the fair.
The Kumbh Mela is held every six years while the Maha Kumbh takes place every 12 years.
According to officials, about 15 crore devotees are expected to partake in the pilgrimage, which, according to legends, opens the doors to heaven.
Over 40,000 LED lights have been used by the administration to light up the bathing ghats as well as illuminate the historic city.A group of seers are lighting 33,000 diyas everyday at the ongoing Kumbh Mela for the early construction of a grand Ram temple at the disputed Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya. They said they would light 11 lakh diyas this month, praying for the early construction of the temple. They believe that the construction will start soon after the Kumbh Mela that ends on March 4.
Additionally, a slew of hoardings welcoming devotees to the Kumbh Mela here also call for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site.
President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated a three-day Gandhian Resurgence Summit at Parmarth Niketan camp at the ongoing Kumbh Mela on Thursday. About 300 Gandhians from different parts of the country and organisations are participating.