Magh Mela: For devotees, it’s faith over harsh weather

At a time when people shivered in their cosy quilts, lakhs of devotees and pilgrims braved the chill to take a holy dip in the Sangam to celebrate Makar Sankranti.

lucknow Updated: Jan 16, 2018 13:19 IST
Smriti Malaviya
Smriti Malaviya
Hindustan Times, Allahabad
Magh Mela,Makar Sankranti,Kalpvasis
Pilgrims arriving in mela area.(Anil Kumar Maurya/HT)

At a time when people shivered in their cosy quilts, lakhs of devotees and pilgrims braved the chill to take a holy dip in the Sangam to celebrate Makar Sankranti on Sunday night.

This was in addition to lakhs of pilgrims and seers staying in the tent city as ‘kalpvasis’ surviving on austere means.

As the temperature stood at 5 degrees Celsius, the pilgrims shivered as they emerged out of the icy cold water of the Sangam.

Braving the chill with devotional music
  • Hundreds of pilgrims from Jaunpur, Faizabad and other districts sing devotional songs to the accompaniment of musical instruments like harmonium, cymbals, chimtas in the camp of Purohit Shailendra Kumar after midnight.
  • “It is the best way to beat the cold and spend the night by reciting the name of god. Within a few hours, it would be dawn and pilgrims would be ready to take a holy dip in the river,” the purohit said.

On Makar Sankranti, the sun transits into Capricorn marking the beginning of its northward journey (uttarayan) ushering in the auspicious period for Hindus.

Makar Sankranti bathing is the second important snan during Magh Mela after Mauni Amavasya which falls on January 16 this year.

Camps remained abuzz with activity as the saints performed special rituals to celebrate Makar Sankranti.

Policemen were seen controlling the crowd that rushed in from all directions. Their patience was put to test as pilgrims insisted on entering the mela area from the point of their choice unwilling to listen to the plea of policemen to move in accordance with the arrangements made for them by the mela administration.

A saint of Mahatyagis sect smoking chillum in mela area. (Anil Kumar Maurya/HT)

Whenever they found some respite from the rush, the policemen gathered around a small bonfire lit by the owner of a temporary tea stall.

Before the break of the dawn, hundreds of pilgrims and devotees staying in Saket Dham Khalsa near pontoon bridge number 2 in Khak Chowk sat around a bonfire waiting for their guru Binaika Baba to perform the yajna to propitiate the sun god.

Arriving at the camp after taking a holy dip in the Sangam at 8.17 pm, Binaika Baba said: “I am not affected by weather. A saint’s lifestyle is based on austerity, discipline and self-control.”

“The daily routine of real sadhus includes rituals to purify the body and elevate the mind, recitation of sacred verses and prayers,” he said.

Binaika Baba belongs to the Vaishnav sect of sadhus.

  • Pilgrims sleep on the floor in open pandals-- Over a thousand pilgrims were found sleeping in the giant pandal which was open from three sides in the camp of Mahant Shree Nrityagopal Das.
  • Screening of Ramayan--To keep the pilgrims occupied, the camp of Shree Peetambara Shakti Peeth near Sangam screened Ramayan on a giant LED screen. Women watched the screening with their heads covered in shawls and hands folded.

Soon the seer was surrounded by other scantily clothed sadhus who reached there to participate in the ritual.

“Twenty-one hawan kund are being prepared for the yajna,” said Binaika Baba as he got ready to perform the five-hour ritual.

Barely 200 metres away from the camp of Saket Dham Khalsa is the camp of Peethdhishwar Yogiraj Ramesh Tantrik.

While ensuring security of the camp, his disciples sip tea to keep themselves warm. Wrapped in woollens to ward off the chill, they greet every visitor with a smile.

“The time immediately after midnight is considered to be very auspicious for invoking two energies of the universe – sound and heat,” the seer said.

“Heat is symbolic of yajna’s holy fire while sound generated from the recitation of mantras during the yajna starts healing the mind and the body. This time of the night is considered to be the purest. This yajna is for the mankind,” he added.

Pilgrims sleeping in the giant pandal of Mahant Nityagopal Das. (Anil Kumar Maurya/HT)

“We are making offerings that comprise jaiphal, laung, elaichi etc. This process will reduce negativity in the people and they will become more compassionate. The yajna is being performed for thousands of people who have gathered in the mela area so that they may benefit from it,” he said.

Braving the chill, over 150 volunteers of Lal Mahendra Shiv Shakti’s Aum Namah Shivay camp on Sangam Marg prepared poori-sabzi and khichdi in giant woks and utensils especially customised for preparation of meals for over a thousand people in one go.

About 50 volunteers of the camp of Lal Mahendra Shiv Shakti offered food to pilgrims near Bade Hanuman temple.

“You may not believe but I didn’t get time to wear woollens since January 2, the day when the camp started serving food. Whenever I feel cold, I stand near the giant stoves to get some heat. Let alone keeping ourselves warm, we will not even get sleep for the next two days. But it is seva (service) and no one complains,” a volunteer Shantanu Singh said.

Pilgrims from Jaunpur, Faizabad and other districts singing devotional songs to the accompaniment of music in mela area. (Anil Kumar Maurya/HT)


Smoking chillums, the saints of Mahatyagis sect are famous for performing one of the most rigorous rituals ‘Dhuni puja’. After sitting around a huge log of burning wood as fog engulfed the mela area, some of them got ready to walk up to the Sangam to take a holy dip.

“We are not affected by weather. With the blessings of god, we perform the most difficult rituals,” said Mahatyagi Charan Das. Chillums keep sadhus warm as they sit around bonfire.

First Published: Jan 16, 2018 13:14 IST