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60 lakh people take holy dip in Ganges
Sharat Pradhan in Allahabad |
January 14, 2007 17:13 IST
Last Updated: January 14, 2007 21:19 IST
Over 60 lakh men, women and children converged along the banks of the holy 'Sangam' in Allahabad on Sunday -- the second auspicious bathing day of the 42-day long Ardh Kumbh Mela, known as the biggest human congregation on earth.
It was popular Hindu festival, 'Makar Sankranti' that led the mammoth crowds to brave the biting morning chill and trudge along for miles to fulfill their spiritual urge to take a dip at the holy confluence of Ganga,Yamuna and the now invisible Saraswati rivers -- in pursuance of their belief that it would wash away their sins and pave their path to salvation.
However, the much-awaited 'shahi snan' (royal bath) to be led by the highly revered naked 'Naga sadhus' will take place on Monday morning, while 'Makar Sankranti' continues.
"It is the transition of the sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn that marks 'Makar Sankranti' -- which is observed across the country in different forms," said Prof Ram Naresh Tripathi a well known scholar.
"While people take a dip in different rivers across the country, a bath at the 'Sangam' carries very special significance and that too during the Kumbh Mela," he said.
'Makar Sankranti' also marks the commencement of longer days, signaling the beginning of winter's departure. The auspicious bathing period that commenced on Sunday morning and will continue until Monday afternoon, is expected to draw more than one crore people.
Coming from different corners of the country, many were seen camping on the chilly river banks right from late Saturday night.
"We arrived for Sangam on Sunday evening so that we could bathe in the night itself even before the setting in of 'Makar-Sankranti'; in the morning the crowds would be much larger and we believe that a dip even on the previous night will be equally fulfilling," observed Sarojini Devi, who had come with a group of half a dozen women from Darbhanga in Bihar.
Local trader Ram Kumar had decided to take a dip shortly after midnight to avoid the morning crowds. "I live in Allahabad only and have been used to bathing in the holy Ganga, but the Kumbh Mela is very special for us and since Makar Sankranti began shortly after midnight, I chose to bathe right then," he said.
Not only he, but his 7-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter too took the dip. "It is a great feeling of fulfillment that words cannot describe," Kumar exclaimed.
Crowds began pouring in from 5.15 a.m. and the flow increased through the unusually bright and sunny day. All vehicular movement had been stopped not only in and around the sprawling 11 km Kumbh territory but also on all major thoroughfares leading to the area.
Clearly, it is their sublime faith that propels them to tread long distances on foot, and the spirit is amply visible. A few old and infirm who could not make it on foot were seen being carried on the back of their kins, while little kids were seen perched atop the shoulders of their parents.
Mela officer P R Misra, who heads the gigantic set-up expressed satisfaction that bulk of the devotees had taken their dip and that the day had been 'incident free.'
He said: "We owe it all to the God almighty to ensure a smooth flow of this event, which cannot be matched with anything else in the world."
Asked if the oft-repeated terrorist alert had affected the arrivals in Allahabad, Misra said: "I think the faith of the people was far above the fears aroused on account of terror warnings; you can see there is no fear on anybody's face as they are more concerned about achieving their spiritual fulfillment through a bath at the Sangam."
But the biggest test lies on Monday when all the celebrated Hindu congregations -- the Naga sadhus in particular -- march down in their colourful and musical processions for their 'shahi snan.'
The authorities expect the heaviest rush of people on January 19 that marks the 'Mauni Amawasya' (no moon night) when 1.5 crore to 2 crore devotees are expected to bathe in the Ganges.