With the blowing of the conch and chanting of mantras, the saffron flag was hoisted here, marking the beginning of the year-long Simhasta Kumbh Mela.
Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi along with Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde performed the 'Dhwajaarohan' (flag hoisting) ceremony at holy Ramkunda on the banks of river Godavari at the auspicious 'muhurt' of 11.51 am, coinciding with planet Jupiter's entry into the sign of Leo.
Earlier, the Simhasta flag, with a golden border and bearing the image of a majestic lion, was consecrated along with a 'Kumbha Kalash' by a purohit and sadhus. As the flag went up, the cries of 'Prabhu Ram' and 'Jai Shri Ram' reverberated the banks of Godavari.
Lakhs of devotees thronged the Ramkund area that wore a festive look with saffron flags and buntings adorning every nook and corner even as strict security was being maintained in view of Monday's blast in Mumbai.
Knee-deep waters at Ramkund due to flooding of the river failed to dampen the spirit of the devotees even as a large number of lifeguards were stationed in the gushing waters.
Kumbh Mela is one of the most spectacular religious events in India held every 12 years. According to legends, the nectar of immortality spilt from the pitcher (kumbh) when the Gods were escaping with it. This event is commemorated by the celebration of the Kumbh Mela.