Kumbh, the largest religious gathering in the world, gets underway on Monday in this land of the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.
Gange tav darshnarth mukti (mere sight of the Ganga washes away all sins), an age-old Sanskrit shloka, brings people here in hordes from across the country and abroad. The city is all geared up for the 55-day event. The Kumbh administration expects a total turnout of 15 to 20 million people.
Mela officer Mani Prasad Misra said all ghats were ready to facilitate bathing and enough water had been released from Narora and Tehri dams to maintain proper flow in the river. The administration has established 13 hospitals and 20 first aid centres in the 70 sq km area housing the Kumbh city.
“Unprecedented security arrangements have been put in place to ensure security of the people,” Misra added.
On the eve of mega event, besides thousands of others, a band of Kashmiri women and men headed towards the Sangam for the first bathing festival, Makar Sankranti on Monday, which also witnesses the first shahi snan by the 13 akharas. Devotees, a large number of them outsiders, have started pouring into the Kumbh mela area.
Kumbh may carry the tag of Hinduism, but remains a symbol of unity in diversity. People of different castes, cultures, nationalities and even religious backgrounds mingle freely at the mela. “The holy Sangam has the magical power of washing away everybody’s sins. It is the greatest congregation of astha (faith) with no match anywhere in the world,” said astrologer and pundit Ashutosh Varshney.
The 13 akharas founded by Adi Shankaracharya for the safety and protection of ‘sanatan dharma’ will have three shahi snans (royal baths) — on January 14 (Makar Sankranti), February 10 (Mauni Amavasya) and February 15 (Basant Panchami).