The stage is set for Kumbh Mela 2013, widely considered the largest human congregation in the world. Spread over 55 days from January 14 to March 10, the mela will attract nearly 200 million devotees.
On the main bathing days, 20-30 million devotees are likely to throng the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the invisible Saraswati.
From jet-set swamis to Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities, the mela will see a union of different faiths, cultures, languages and customs.
The who's who among the religious gurus too will be in attendance, preaching religion, morality and ways of life to attain moksha (salvation). A big signboard at the entry point says it all: "Gange Tav Darshnarth Mukti" (mere look at the Ganga brings salvation).
Hollywood actor Catherine Zeta-Jones too has expressed desire to be at the mela. Many celebrity visitors have their own gurus and camps and prefer to come incognito.
A city of Sangam spread over 70 sq km, with separate district judge, district magistrate and SSP, has already come up.
Authorities have established 12 hospitals and 20 health posts. For the first time, the administration has arranged eco-friendly toilets, though their numbers seem a tad less. The health department and the municipal corporation have lined up an army of workers to keep the surroundings clean. A big police force comprising 15,000 officials, 27 companies of paramilitary forces, the anti-terrorist squad, spotters, a national disaster management team, bomb disposal and bomb detection squads are already in place.
UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has flown in twice for inspection.