Prayagraj: The Kumbh, world's largest religious event, commenced here on early Tuesday morning with thousands of pilgrims, braving cold water, took a holy bath at Sangam-- the confluence of sacred river Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati--on the occasion of Makarsankranti.
The 55-day-long Ardh Kumbh, first in Prayagraj after renaming of the district from Allahabad by the Yogi Adityanath government, took place last time in 2007.
The holy bath for the Makarsakrant, began with the Shahi Snan (royal bath) at 0530 hrs. The authorities are expecting around 15 million to attend the first day of the Kumbh.
The royal procession of the 13 Akhara began well before 0500 hrs with sadhus, saints and the Mahamandeleshwar with Mahanirvanis talking the lead. Gilded chariots and palanquins carrying the Mahamandeleshwars of the respective Akhara were the cynosure of all eyes.
The Nagar sadhus and Sanyasi--welding tridents, swords and spears--took holy bath rituals without any hinderance.
Before the sunrise the periphery of Sangam was sparkling with lights of varied hues while scores of people at at Ghats.
Enchanting scene were witnessed when pilgrims foreheads smeared with Holy ashes, Kumkum and Sandalwood paste performed Ganga Pujan after the taking a bath and gave alms to beggars and proceeded to various temples in the Mela area .
According to mythology, taking a bath in and around 20 km radius of Prayagraj on this day, is considered to be auspicious.
State director general of Police (DGP) O P Singh, who is personally monitoring the Kumbh told UNI that holy festival was commencing peaceful with no untoward incident reported.
Though, this is Ardh Kumbh but the Bharatiya Janata Party government has changed the name of Ardh Kumbh to Kumbh and Purna Kumbh to Maha Kumbh.
According to Hindu mythology, the Sun entered the Makar Rashi on Monday itself, but after sunset, so the Makar Sankranti commenced on Tuesday.
The first to reach the Sangam for the Shahi Snan was Maha Nirvani Akhara and the Atal Akhara followed by Niranjani, Anand, Juna, Awahan, Sri Panch Agni, Nirvani Ani, Digambar Ani, Nirmohi Ani, Naya Udaseen, Bada Udaseen and Nirmal Akhara. The last Akhara has been given the time slot of 1440 hrs.
The other Shahi Snans will be Mauni Amavasya on February 4 and Basant Panchami-February 10 besides important occasions of Paush Purnima on January 21, Maghi Purnima-February 19 and Maha Shivratri-March 4.
Kumbh happens to be the biggest religious and spiritual event of the world. Both state and Centre government, have made considerable efforts to attract tourists and pilgrims.
Besides pumping in Rs 2, 800 cr for Kumbh Mela and beautification of the district, the state as well as the Union Government made several announcements and opened projects.
First the state government changed that name of the district from Allahabad into Prayagraj to recall its existence in the Vedic period. Opening the Akshayvat Darshan was one of the long pending pending demand of severals. Now, people can go for Darshan of the original Akshay Vat, situated inside the fort after 450 years.
Construction of a civil terminal by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, is another big achievement that has increased the number of flights from Prayagraj.
In the district, 10 flyovers, nine railway over bridges and six underpass, besides widening of roads and 32 crossings, has been constructed.
The 3,200 hectare area for the event has been divided into 20 sectors with 20 pontoon bridges for better connectivity, and this has been done for the first time.
Under the Paint My City project, different walls on the streets have been given a beautiful look, and for this fine arts students were hired.(UNI)