Kumbh Mela 2019: The Shahi Snan and the Akharas
Allahabad, Jan 18: The Shahi Snan is integral part of Kumbh Mela which is considered as one of the most important pilgrimages for Hindus. Kumbh Mela 2019 commenced with first Shahi Snan on Tuesday as sadhus belonging to various akharas took a holy dip in the confluence of three rivers - Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.
Devotees take a holy dip at Sangam during Makar Sankranti
As a part of the Shahi Snan, sadhus belonging to 13 akhadas take a dip in the holy rivers along the banks of River Ganga where the Kumbh Mela takes place. The order in which the akhadas perform the holy ritual by taking a dip in the river - the Ganges in case of the Prayagraj Kumbh Mela - is predetermined and according to the norms, no one is allowed to enter the holy river before the akhadas finish their Shahi Snans.
A Sadhvi of Juna Akhara takes a holy dip holding a trident
One of the major events of Kumbh Mela is the Peshwai Procession, which marks the arrival of the members of an akhara or sect of sadhus at the Kumbh Mela. The order of entering the water for bathing is fixed, with the Juna, the Niranjani and Mahanirvani akharas preceding. The major event of the festival is ritual bathing at the banks of the river in whichever town Kumbh Mela being held: Ganga in Haridwar, Godavari in Nasik, Kshipra in Ujjain and Sangam (confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati) in Prayagraj (Prayagraj).
Juna Akhara Sadhus arrive to take a holy dip at Sangam on the auspicious Makar Sankranti day
Over 12 crore people expected to visit Prayagraj between now and March, when the festival will come to a close, for a holy dip at the Sangam.
A sea of devotees gather to take bath at Sangam
Other activities at the mela include religious discussions (pravachan), devotional singing (kirtan), mass feeding (mahaparasada) of holy men and women and the poor, and religious assemblies where doctrines are debated and standardised (shastrartha). The sadhus are seen clad in saffron sheets with Vibhuti ashes dabbed on their skin as per the requirements of ancient traditions. Some, called naga sanyasis, may not wear any clothes even in severe winter. The right to be naga, or naked, is considered a sign of separation from the material world.