Allahabad: Lakhs of devotees today took a holy dip on the auspicious occasion of Mauni Amavasya in the ongoing Maha Kumbh congregation at the Sangam in Allahabad.
The day also marks the second Shahi Snaan of sadhus belonging to various 'Akharas'.
According to a rough estimate by officials, the number of people to have taken a dip by the crack of dawn appears to be "not less than 20 lakh" and the final turnout may exceed the projected estimate of three crore.
Devotees started arriving at the bathing 'ghats' along the banks of the Ganga since last night; the special celestial configuration which makes Mauni Amavasya auspicious has been in place since Saturday afternoon.
The 12-yearly Maha Kumbh congregation is known to reach its climax, in terms of turnout, on Mauni Amavasya and the administration has made adequate security arrangements.
More than 15,000 security personnel drawn from Central paramilitary forces like Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF) and Rapid Action Force (RAF) besides the Uttar Police and its Provincial Armed Constabulary and Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) are keeping a close vigil.
The star attraction of the day remains Shahi Snaan of the 'Akharas' - orders of martial ascetics established by Adi Sankara - which proceeded, in turns, towards the holy river's confluence with Yamuna and mythical Saraswati in majestic processions.
There are altogether 13 'Akharas' belonging to various sects and each of them have been allotted specific time, ranging from 30 minutes to an hour, depending upon the size of their procession.
While the elderly went through the rituals observing a vow of silence (the word Mauni is derived from maun which means silence), others watched the sight of swords and spears wielding 'Naga' ascetics moving about with ash smeared on their bodies.
While the 'Naga sadhus' are reaching the venue from their respective camps on foot, their leaders known by honorifics like 'Shri Mahant' and 'Mahamandaleshwar' cover the distance perched atop richly-decorated chariots with musical bands playing devotional tunes.
Make-shift roads have been laid down with the help of metallic chequered plates with barricading on both sides to ensure that the Shahi Snaan processions go on without any inconvenience.