Haridwar, Feb 12 (ANI): Security has been tightened here for the first day of the Shahi Snan on Friday, as thousands of devotees are expected to take a dip in the River Ganges to mark the festival of Maha Shivratri.
Around 10,000 security personnel have been deployed in the city including central paramilitary forces to thwart any kind of untoward incident when devotees, including ash-covered Naga sadhus take bath.
Haridwar Director General of Police (DIG) Alok Sharma said, "For the Shahi Snan security, we have deployed around 10,000 police officials who will work in two shifts. At one point of time, around 5,000 to 6,000 police officials will be on guard."
The general public took the holy bath from midnight, while the 13 akharas (sects of holy men) took the bath at 11 am today.
Har Ki Pauri will be shut for the general public from 11am to 6pm, when holy men of various sects will take a dip in the holy Ganges.
Heavy security arrangements have been made at Har ki Pauri, with snipers, police in riot gear and plain clothes keeping a close watch to help prevent potential attacks, stampedes and petty crimes.
DIG Sharma further said, "We have upgraded the security, both qualitatively and quantitatively. In terms of quality, we have told our forces to look out for any suspicious person, who might want to do any harm and we must stop him from doing that. We have to be mentally alert."
"If there are 10,000 personnel, then there are 20,000 pairs of eyes and we will be on guard at Hari Ki Pauri and nearby areas. There is another team which will continuously monitor the unattended items," added Sharma.
The next two Shahi Snans will take place on March 15 and April 14 respectively, on the occasions of Somawati Amavasya (new moon night) and Baisakhi (a harvest festival).
Maha Shivaratri is a festival celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day in the Krishna Paksha (waning moon) of the month of Maagha or Phalguna in the Hindu calendar. The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael (Bilva) leaves to Lord Shiva , all day fasting and an all night long vigil.
Ganga is traditionally used as an offering for Lord Shiva and his followers. (ANI)