Even before midnight, devotees from different walks of life and parts of the country had begun to pour into the Sangam city to take holy dip on Mahashivratri, the great night of Shiva and the last bathing day during the one-and-a-half-month Kumbh Mela.
According to Hindu mythology, Mahashivratri symbolises the last holy bath of Kalpvasis who spend the month of Magh as Kalpvas, the period of austerity, living a minimalistic life.
An estimated 1 crore devotees are expected to bathe on this auspicious day, officials say.
Heavy rush on their mind, visitors began arriving at the makeshift Kumbh Nagri in Prayagraj even before midnight. By morning, the bathing ghats brimmed with colours of life.
Late-night showers in parts of the holy city failed to dampen the spirit of the pilgrims.
“Despite showers, I and my friends walked towards the bathing ghats and took dip,” Dhananjay Singh, who came from Lucknow, said.
“I consider it (rain) a good sign.” Ashutosh Varshney, an astrologer who has set up a camp in Sector-6 of the Kumbh Nagri, said, “Mahashivratri marks the culmination of the Kumbh and the prominent bathing days. This year, it fell on a Monday, the day dedicated to Lord Shiva, after a long time.” Also on this day, Lord Shiva got married, added Gunjan Varshney, who runs the Raam Naam Bank, where devotees deposit booklets after writing the name of Lord Ram.
Police and central para-military personnel were keeping a close watch on the movement of people and vehicles and guiding them towards the bathing ghats.
Kumbh, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, began on January 15 on Makar Sankranti.
There are six bathing dates. Of these, shahi snaans are held on Makar Sankranti, Mauni Amawasya and Basant Panchami.
Parv snaans are held on Paush Poornima and Maghi Poornima.