Allahabad, Jan 14: Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims began to arrive here on Monday for the Kumbh Mela, the world' biggest religious festival. Led by holy men, they were entering the sacred Ganges and taking dips. The mela will see upto 100 million Hindus assembling over the next two months to take holy bath in the Ganges, which is believed to cleanse one of all sins.
Hundreds of gurus, some even brandishing swords and tridents, ran into the freezing waters of the Ganges for the first bath at dawn on Monday, at a time declared auspicious by astrologers, marking the inauguration of the event. Holy men, seers and saints from across the nation have assembled at Allahabad for the two-month spectacle offering a glimpse of Indian spiritualism.
For many others, the Kumbh Mela is a religious vacation, where prayers are offered and sought while camping together with families and friends at the carnival site.
The Kumbh Mela takes place every 12 years in the holy city of Allahabad with smaller events taking place every three years in other locations around the country. According to Hindu mythology, the mela originated after how a few drops of nectar of immortality fell on Allahabad, Nasik, Ujjain and Haridwar, the four holy places that host the festival in some form.
The police and local administration have left no stone unturned for the occasion. The police expect 2,50,000 people assembling at the mela on Monday and 20 million on February 15, the most auspicious day. The organisers expect 100 million people arriving during the entire course of the mela. The previous Kumbh Mela in 2001 had seen the footfall of that many number of people.
Police sources said their biggest concern was stampede, a common occurrence in India's religious occasions, and said 12,000 officers would be monitoring the crowd control during the mela.
The organisers have set up 14 medical units, 22,000 street lights, 150 kilometres of temporary roads, 18 bridges, new sewage facilities and 35,000 toilets to cater to the huge number of guests who will be present during the festival. Nearly 7,000 buses and several special trains would bring scores of people to the venue from several parts of the nation.
Meanwhile, the local authorities have taken a strict stance on the release of wastes from the local factories and flow of raw sewage from the city into the Ganges.