Nearly one lakh 'Kanwarias' or Shiva devotees on Friday thronged Haridwar and took a holy dip in the river Ganga amid tight security for the annual fair.
Till now, over five lakh Kanwarias have arrived in Haridwar for the Kanwar mela, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Garhwal, Ashok Kumar said.
Slogans like 'bum bum bole' rent the air as the Shiva devotees, attired in saffron robes, took bath at Har Ki Pauri.
The Kanwarias traditionally take the holy water of the Ganga in their decorated 'Kanwars' (earthen pots) to their homes where the pilgrimage culminates with the water being used for anointment ceremony at the local Shiva temples.
Officials here said they were expecting 70 lakh Kanwarias this year from western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and other states.
A surge of Kanwarias has forced the administration to close the Haridwar-Meerut Highway for traffic since last night, a day ahead of schedule.
Alternative traffic plans have been made allowing vehicles to take Ghaziabad-Mawana-Bijnor and Delhi-Bhagpat-Saharanpur routes.
An alarming rise in the river level in Haridwar and Rishikesh has led to some concern among authorities and special police teams have been constituted to keep vigil on Kanwarias.
In view of intelligence reports that terrorists might try to target the devotees, Provincial Armed Constabulary and Rapid Action Force personnel have also been deployed.