Naga sadhus remain the key attraction, huge influx continues

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Ardh Kumbh Nagar (Allahabad), Jan 19 (UNI) The colourful procession of the 12 akharas comprising 'naga sadhus' proved to be the main attraction of the Mauni Amavasya bathing festival during the ongoing Ardh Kumbh here today.

Spanning from Sumit, a toddler from Maharashtra to Babu Ram of Ludhiana and from physically handicapped Arunima from Kolkata to Sonia, a shutterbug from Peru, a chain of curious onlookers stuck to the wooden periphery of the route which was taken by the Akharas procession to indulge in the shahi snan (royal bath) at the Triveni Sangam.

While the 'mahamandaleshwars and mahants' of the akharas were perched atop well decorated snazzy cars, horses and even camels, their juniors especially the Naga sadhus danced down the sandy route to the Sangam leaving the audience spellbound.

The naga sadhus, who will leave the 7,000 acre fair arena after the last shahi snan on Basant Panchami (January 23 next), also showcased their battle skills by presenting their mastery over traditional weapons like swords, mace, tridents and axes.

''It is the nagas which has propelled us to this festival considered to the largest religious congregation in the world,' said Sonia, relishing a sniff of Ganja.

One of the akharas processions also saw eunuchs dancing to the beats of drum played by local band parties, while another had foreigners in traditional Indian sartorials dancing to devotional songs like "Radhey Krishna Radhey Shyam".

The nagas, like children ran naked to the Sangam to have the sacred dip and returned to dance again.

Away from the procession, the villagers flocked to see other attractions at the sprawling mela arena including two children dressed as Lord Shiva and a girl dressed up like Goddess Durga.

Edging these child wonders were the chain of 'pandas' tightly holding on to young cows donated by devouts to pave their passage to heaven.

Interestingly, as there was a shortage of young cows, devotees purchased the cows from the 'pandas' only to end up donating the same animal to those very priests. ''Gau daan mein kuch bhi jootha nahi hota,'' said Rameshwar Panda from Jaunpur to justify his practice of selling the cow to a devotee for Rs 1,000 only to get it back as 'daan' from the same devout. ''This cow is worth Rs 10,000 as it has been sold ten times by me till now,'' he added.

The entire mela arena resonated with bhajans with the sea of revellers swelling with every passing moment.

''An estimated two crore devouts have taken dip in the Sangam till 1600 hrs this evening,'' said Ardh Kumbh nodal officer and Allahabad divisional commissioner R N Tripathi adding that the influx in the twinkling mela arena, was still on.


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