Kumbh Mela 2019 begins today, devotees in Prayagraj Kumbh
Pyaragraj: For lakhs of devotees, the moment arrived just at daybreak, when they took a 'holy dip' amid chants of 'Har Har Gange' at the Sangam, marking the beginning of the 50-day Kumbh Mela today. Sangam, the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, is considered to be one of the most sacred places in the country. Kumbh Nagari, spread across 32,000 hectare, saw a huge rush of pilgrims from distant lands as early as 4 in the morning.
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The first "Shahi Snan' (royal bath) of Kumbh drew a record crowd of 2.25 devotees, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said.
Saints of 13 akharas including seven Shaiva, three Vaishnava, two Udasina and one Sikh - were the first to take the 'holy dip'. The order in which the 'holy dip' is performed by various akharas is pre-determined.
Elaborate security arrangements are in place and pontoon bridges have been constructed to lead pilgrims to the 5-km bathing ghat at Sangam.
Thousands of tents, with restaurants and shops, have sprung up along the river, with pilgrims camping across a sprawling 45-square kilometre zone specially earmarked for the Kumbh.
The UP government has allocated Rs.4,200 crore for the Ardh Kumbh, more than thrice the budget of the Purna Kumbh in 2013.
Nearly 30,000 police have been deployed for crowd management and prevent stampedes that have marred previous gatherings.
Fire broke out at two tents after cylinder blast at the Digambara Akhara yesterday. No one was injured and the fire was contained quickly, said the police.
Union minister Harsh Vardhan, yesterday, launched a special weather service for the Kumbh Mela. A mobile app named 'Kumbh Mela Weather Service' has also been developed to disseminate live weather information.
Traditionally called the 'Ardh Kumbh' as it takes place twice in 12 years, the present Uttar Pradesh government recently renamed it 'Kumbh'
The Kumbh will reach its culmination on March 4, which also marks the Maha Shivratri, the last of the six dates for "Shahi Snan".