The first 'shahi snan' of the ongoing Kumbh Mela began in Nashik, Maharashtra on Saturday with thousands of devotees, including 'mahants' of various akhadas, thronging the ghats of River Godavari to take the holy dip.
The first akhada to take the holy dip was the Nirvani akhada, led by its mahant Gyandas Maharaj, who is also the president of the All India Akhada Parishad, who performed the ritual along with other 'sadhus' and 'mahants' at 7.15am.
It was followed by the sadhus and mahants of the Digambar akhada and the third and last akhada to take the dip was the Nirmohi akhada. The sadhus of the Chatu Sampraday akhada also took the royal bath.
Earlier, the royal processions of the three akhadas of the Vaishnava sect, comprising mahants and mahamandleshwars atop vehicles, horses and camels decorated with flowers, which began from the Laxminarayan Temple in Tapovan here, reached the Ram kund wielding flags, swords, trishul, etc, amid beating of drums.
Thousands of sadhus and mahants, including Naga sadhus of the 10 akhadas of Shaiva sect, took the royal bath at the Kushvarta Teerth in Trimbakeshwar town which received light showers.
Police have made tight security arrangements by deploying extra forces in the two towns and all basic amenities for the devotees have been ensured.
The Kumbh Mela -- a celebration of faith in which Hindus bathe in a sacred river -- is held every third year and is rotated between four holy sites.
As a result, it takes place at Nashik every 12 years and although it isn't on the same scale as the editions on the Ganges at Haridwar and the Saraswati at Allahabad, it still draws millions of pilgrims.
Organisers had increased safety measures in a bid to avoid a repeat of a deadly stampede at the same venue 12 years ago, and said the mass bathe had so far passed without major incident.
Nashik is unique out of the four venues in that it has two main bathing sites, the Godavari river in Nashik and nearby Trimbakeshwar temple ghat, stretching the emergency services across a wide area.
Between eight and 10 million pilgrims are expected to attend the two-month-long Hindu festival this year.
Its official opening was marked with a low-key flag raising ceremony in Nashik on July 14.
There are two main bathing dates left, on September 13 and September 18.
(With Agency inputs)