The month-long Simhasta Kumbh festival ended on Saturday with the third and last ‘shahi snan’ (royal bath) by ascetics, saints and seers of various ‘akharas’ that had gathered here on the banks of the holy Kshipra river.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan claimed that more than one crore devotees participated in the third ‘shahi snan’ at the religious festival that began on April 22.
The ascetics belonging to the Juna Akhara were among the first to take the holy dip here.
The sacred bath started as early as 3am with the Naga sadhus -- the Shaivite ascetics with their naked bodies smeared in ash and matted hair -- leaving their encampments for the ghat of Kshipra that was allotted to them.
Their march to the bathing ghat was conducted with ostentatious ceremony, also featuring palanquins and horses.
As other Akharas took their turns for the elaborate ceremonies of going for the holy dip, the roads to Kshipra were choc-a-bloc with sadhus.
An Akhara is an order of sadhus -- ascetics or renunciates -- who view themselves as defending Dharma.
Once followers of all 13 akharas had taken the bath, ordinary pilgrims got the chance to bathe in the holy river.
Narendra Giri, the president of the All India Akhara Council, said it was a historical coincidence that members of Shaiv and Vaishnav Akharas -- traditional rivals and prone to pinpricking each other -- had their sacred baths at the same time.
Ujjain was also awash on Saturday in a sea of humanity availing itself of religious rewards on the last day of the Kumbh.
The administration made special arrangements for the security of the devotees and medical emergencies.
Each Akhara was provided with an ambulance along with medical and paramedical staff, chief medical officer N.K. Trivedi said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of vehicles were caught in a traffic snarl stretching for several kilometres owing to the rush of pilgrims to the Kumbh mela. Devotees had to walk for several kilometres to reach the banks of the Kshipra river.