With the blowing of conch and chanting of mantras, a saffron flag was hoisted in Nashik on Wednesday, marking the beginning of the yearlong Sinhasta Kumbh Mela.
Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde performed the dhwajarohan (flag-hoisting) ceremony at Ramkunda on the banks of Godavari River at 1151 IST, when Jupiter entered the sign of Leo.
Earlier, the Simhasta flag, with a golden border and bearing the image of a majestic lion, was consecrated along with a Kumbha Kalash by a purohit and sadhus. As the flag went up, cries of 'Prabhu Ram' and 'Jai Shri Ram' reverberated.
Devotees thronged the Ramkund area, which wore a festive look with saffron flags and buntings adorning every nook and corner.
Strict security was being maintained in view of Monday's blast in Mumbai.
Knee-deep waters at Ramkund due to the flooding of the river failed to dampen the spirit of the devotees.
In Trimbakeshwar, Balchandra Shastri Muley, the local vachaspati, hoisted the flag at Kushavartak Tirtha in the presence of Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal.
Devotees raised slogans in praise of Lord Shiva as a silk saffron flag bearing images of Jupiter, Sun and Moon was hoisted.
However, Parmanand Saraswati, national president of Dasa Panchanam Juna Akhada with 100 sadhus, who boycotted the event to protest against the government's move to acquire temples, obstructed Bhujbal while he was proceeding to take part in the event.
He was allowed to go only after he assured them that he would take up the matter with the Centre.
State Tribal Development Minister Madhukar Pichad and Transport Minister Prashant Hiray were also present at the flag-hoisting ceremony.
Sadhus of different akhadas, who had earlier threatened to boycott the flag-hoisting ceremony, participated after city Mayor Dashrath Patil urged them to join the function and also take the holy dip, according to president of the Nashik Purohit Sangh, Satish Shukla.
However, mahants and sadhus of ten akhadas in Trimbakeshwar continued with their boycott, president of the Akhil Bhartiya Akhada Parishad, Sagaranand Saraswati, said.