A large number of devotees are taking a holy dip at the Sangam, the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers in Allahabad on the auspicious occasion of ‘‘Mauni Amavasya'' on Sunday.
Scores of ascetics descended in the Ganges in the early morning hours braving the chilly cold.
The crowd gathered to take ''shahi snan'' which has fallen on the occasion of the Mauni Amavasya, which is believed to be the day when the universe was created.
Authorities at the Maha Kumbh are expecting about a crowd of close to 300 million pilgrims and ascetics who would be taking the plunge into the river turn by turn in batches.
"Today’s bathing has a lot of importance. This amavasya is a most auspicious occasion of this Kumbh. Whoever takes a holy dip on this occasion has his sins washed off completely. That is why people from all over the world come to take a holy dip. This occasion has come after such a long time. So it has a lot of significance. So that is why it is so crowded here," said Swami Karma Puri, an ascetic who explained the importance of the occasion.
The day marks the second shahi snan (royal bath) of this mela; the first was the Makar Sankranti snan on January 14. The ‘Mauni Amavasya’ is considered the most auspicious of all the bathing days and is by far the biggest.
Mauni is derived from the word Muni, literally meaning an ascetic who practices silence.
Twenty-two ghats, spread across 14 sectors, including 12 on the north of the Ganga and with a total length of 18,000 feet, are in place for the snan.
Meanwhile, tight security arrangements have been put in place to tackle law and order problem and prevent stampedes and thwart any terrorist activity.
According to Senior Superintendent of Police (Kumbh Mela), R K S Rathore, commandos of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the Central Reserve Police Force and the Anti-Terrorism Squad have been deployed in sufficient strength at the sprawling Kumbh area of about 6,000 acres.
They will be assisted by more than 5,000 policemen drawn in from various parts of Uttar Pradesh and 4,000 personnel of Provincial Armed Constabulary.
Dog squads and bomb disposal squads have also been pressed into service. CCTV cameras have also been placed at various places to keep a tab on the movements of the people.
Image: A Sadhu prays after taking dip in the waters of Ganga at the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Allahabad.
Photograph: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters