llahabad, Jan 1 (IANS)
The Sangam in Allahabad, reverberated with chants of priests after a large number of devotees took a dip on the second day of the annual Hindu festival of Magh Mela to ward off the “adverse impacts” of the lunar eclipse that coincided with the New Year.
After bathing at the Sangam - the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers - the faithful performed yajna.
“Bathing at the confluence of the three rivers following a solar or lunar eclipse holds special significance for Hindus as it is believed it helps them gain salvation," Devi Dayal Sharma, a priest, told IANS.
“I took a dip at the Sangam before 4 a.m. and since then a large number of devotees have come to me to conduct special prayers for them in order to minimise the adverse impacts of lunar eclipse," he added.
After prayers, devotees provide the poor with money, food, clothes and so on.
“It's a ritual that needs to followed after an eclipse. As per Hindu tradition, the donation to the poor made after an eclipse brings prosperity to the donors and their families," Mangal Prasad Bajpai, another priest, said.
“Mythology says that a lunar eclipse generates negative energy. It is inauspicious to invoke the deities during an eclipse. So, the idols are covered by grass, neem leaves, or raw silk shroud to prevent the natural aura from being destroyed,” he added.
To participate in the Magh Mela, pilgrims have arrived from across the country and abroad and are staying at the marquees put up in the Mela area of around 1,400 acres.
“I am quite happy to start 2010 with a holy dip at the Sangam. It gives me a unique sense of satisfaction that I cannot express," said Manoj Kumar, who along with his family members has come from Bikaner in Rajasthan to participate in the Magh Mela.
It is believed that taking a holy dip at the Sangam at this time strengthens life and makes it disease free. The Magh Mela ends Feb 12 on Mahashivratri.
Heavy security arrangements have been made for the festival.
“The entire area where the mela is being organised has been divided into five circles with 10 police stations,” Allahabad Deputy Inspector General of Police Chandra Prakash said.
“Officials from the Local Intelligence Unit (LIU), Special Task Force (STF) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) are also be assisting us,” he added.
Health authorities have made special arrangements for tackling swine flu at the place where thousands mingle close together.
“For handling swine flu cases, we have reserved 20 beds in the district hospital, while four beds have been reserved at the government hospital that has come up at the mela site,” Allahabad Chief Medical Officer R.D. Dwivedi said.