A sea of humanity swamped the Kumbh Nagari here on Monday as lakhs of pilgrims led by ascetics of Hindu sects took a holy dip on what was the second and most auspicious shahi snan” on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya.
Traditionally the biggest of all the sacred bathing days in the 50-day long Mela, Mauni Amavasya this time holds greater significance as it falls on a Monday and that too during the Kumbh a rather rare combination on many accounts.
The day began as early as 3 am for many devotees who were seen making a beeline for the Sangam the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati — on foot as entry of vehicles was restricted in the vicinity of Kumbh Nagari, the sprawling 32000-hectare township that has come up on the banks of the river.
Yeh Kumbh nahi asan bas itna samajh lijiye thanda pani hai aur dupki lagana hai (Mind you this Kumbh is no easy task, the water is cold and you have to take the plunge), said Ravish Vajpayee, an aspiring poet, who was just out after taking the holy dip in one of the many ghats here.
And though Mauni” means silent”, the chants of Har Har Ganga” and Ganga maiya ki Jai” grew only louder at the break of dawn when Naga Sadhus, a martial order of ascetics who roam naked with ash smeared on their bodies, dancing and singing moved in a procession with religious leaders sitting atop decorated chariots for the holy dip at the Sangam.
Many devotees take up a vow of silence on this day.
Sadhus of 13 akharas (seven Shaiva, three Vaishnava, two Udasina, and one Sikh) who have traditionally participated in the Kumbh Mela will be the first to take the holy bath.
Each akhara, the term for an organisation of sadhus, will be allocated 30-40 minutes to participate in the ritual bath by the Kumbh administration.
Massive security paraphernalia has been put in place, involving over 40 police stations and as many fire stations to deal with any emergency like situation.
Also, as per officials, for close coordination and prompt communication, an Integrated Command Control Centre (ICCC) and 12 wireless grids have been established. The entire area is under surveillance of 440 CCTV cameras Owing to the massive turnout, the ephemeral mega city on Monday, though briefly, could possibly become the most populous place in the world.
In fact due to the huge rush of people, many entry points to the Mela were barricaded by forces. While many complained against it as they were stuck, those who managed to enter were seen boasting of their “breaking cordons” story.
“Do they expect us to go back without taking the dip? One says ”go there”, the other says ”this side is blocked”. We are already too tired to put up with this nonsense. Of course, I had to break the cordon ultimately,” said 25-year-old Anshul Gupta from Lucknow.
As per the administration, over 3 crores pilgrims are expected to take part in the mela on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya.
The Kumbh witnesses altogether three ”Shahi Snans”, the first of which took place on Makar Sankranti (January 15) and the third and the last is scheduled on Basant Panchmi (February 10).
About 12 crore people are expected to visit Kumbh till March 4, when the festival will come to a close.