Perhaps the biggest religious congregation on earth, the Purna Kumbh, begins in the holy city of Prayag (Allahabad) with the first shahi snan (royal bathing) on Tuesday morning. Over one crore devotees, including countless sants and mahants from India and abroad, will take a dip at the sangam (confluence) of Ganga, Yamuna and the invisible Saraswati.
The Purna Kumbh is specially unique this time as it is taking place after a cycle of 144 years. Kumbh melas are held in Haridwar (Uttarakhand), Allahabad (UP), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh) and Nasik (Maharashtra) every 12 years. The Purna Kumbh takes place in Prayag after 12 of these 12-year cycles (i.e. 144 years).
Sources in the UP Police told DNA about a possible terrorist threat that was received on Sunday evening. However, additional DG (law and order) Arun Kumar denied any threat and said foolproof security arrangements had been made for the event. He said over 12,000 policemen were guarding the mela area.
The first shahi snan will begin at 5.15 am on Tuesday. Sadhu-sants of the 13 akhadas will bathe in the holy waters one by one while the bathing of the commoners would begin at 9.45 am, according to the meladhikari (official in-charge of the mela) MP Mishra. He says over five crore devotees, including one lakh foreigners, are expected to bathe at the sangam over the 54 days that the mela will last.
Reports reaching here said sants of the Dandi Swami sect had boycotted Tuesday’s shahi snan in protest against the pollution in the Ganga. However, that is unlikely to take away from the exhilaration of the first royal bathing day. The cynosure of all eyes on the opening day would definitely, as always, be the naga sadhus of the Sanyasi akhada. These sadhus are the first ones to take the dip and stand out for wearing only ashes on their body.
The processions of the akhadas as they head for the bathing ghat are quite a sight as each one tries to outdo the others in pomp, show and fanfare. This kumbh is also unique because it is the only event where all the 13 akhadas get together at one place. Besides, Shankaracharyas of four peeths also congregate at the Kumbh making it more special.
How it all started