The bathing of the sadhus of 13 main akharas began at 0515 hrs and was completed in 11 hours at 1615 hrs during which more
than 3 lakh sadhus, saints and their devotees bathed in the Sangam.
Divisional Commissioner of Allahabad Devesh Chaturvedi told mediapersons here that till 1600 hrs more than 8.2 million people had taken a dip in the Sangam while till tomorrow morning the numbers will cross 10 million as axpected. Per hour around half a million of devotees took bath in the Sangam today, he further added.
“The bathing was totally peaceful and not a single incident of drowning or casualty was reported from anywhere in the vicinity of the 58 kilometer radius of the Mela,” he claimed. However, the Commissioner admitted that the Dandi Swami sanyasis had boycotted today’s bathing as they are agitating since past one week demanding facilities in their camps.
“We are talking with the Dandi Swamis and their matter would be resolved,” he said.
Around 1500 people including women and children went missing during the bathing but the five ‘Missing persons’ Camp in the mela area took pain to locate their relatives.
“For the first time, the missing persons used their own language through the loudspeakers to inform their near and dear ones about their locations,” Mr Chaturvedi said.
Royal procession of sadhus, saints and mahamandaleshwars of the akharas began at around 0515 hrs with the Mahanirvani taking the lead and followed by Atal, Niranjani, Anand and Juna akharas, all of the Sanyasi sects. Later, the akharas of the Bairagis and the Udaseen bathed in Sangam to complete the Shahi Snan.
Gilded chariots and palanquins carrying the mahamandaleshwars of the respective akharas were the cynosure of all eyes.
The Naga Sanyasis, wielding tridents, swords and spears, reached the Sangam — the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers — and completed their bathing rituals without any disturbance from media or devotees.
Before sunrise, the periphery of the Sangam was sparkling with lights of varied hues while scores of boats carried people to the 3 km-long 19 bathing ghats — an enchanting scene.
The divisional commissioner thanked the social workers, policemen and others who worked round the clock near the ghats to manage the crowds and help the people.
“The policemen who came from Uttarakhand initated innovative process to clear the sadhus and people from the ghats where Shahi Snans were being held. These police made a chain by holding their hands and whistled to clear the ghats,” he said.
Though Mr Chaturvedi admitted that there could be some lapses on the part of the security during this bathing which will be reviewed and rectified before the main bathing day of February 10 when 30 million people are expected.
When the official’s attention was drawn on restriction of vehicles in the mela area which led to several people returning back without bathing, he said such things have been taken into notice and something would be done in the bathings.
In view of the Intelligence Bureau(IB) advisory of possibility of terrorist attack, Commandos of the Anti-Terrorist Squad(ATS) and Central forces were deployed near the ghats.
Around 25,000 security personnel have been deployed in the Kumbh Mela area to regulate the ever burgeoning crowds.
The administration had activated a one-way traffic for pedestrians in the area in view of heavy rush for the Shahi Snan. Entry of all vehicles had also been barred in the 58-km radius of the mela.
Sniffer dogs, mine detection and bomb disposal squads were working around the clock. Besides this, around 80 close circuit cameras were installed at key points.
The state health department have also made arrangements to provide medical facilities to ailing pilgrims.
Due to huge crowd at ghats, more than 100 people, including women, could not found their near and dear ones after taking a dip in the Sangam, forcing them to rush to the ‘missing centre’ to make an announcement in search of their missing relatives. Several seers and mahamandaleshwar of the akharas after taking the shahi snan expressed satisfaction on the arrangements made by the authorities.
Nirwani akhara mahamandaleshwar Chetna Mataji, who was among the first to take bath during the Shahi Snan, said she was impressed with the arrangements and her long cherished dream to take a dip in the Sangam during Shahi Snan was fulfilled.
Sadhu Girija Maharaj, who came from Dwarka in Gujarat on foot, said it took around six months to cover the distance as he was eager to take a dip on the first bathing day of Kumbh at Prayag.
Several youths, particularly girls from Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra, were very enthusiastic for taking a dip on the occasion. Old aged people were also seen coming to ghats on crutches or wheelchairs.
Eighteen-year-old Krishna, a resident of Durg in Chhattisgarh, said though she was not so religious, after watching old people of her family taking bath, she could not resist from jumping in the waters.
Another youth Amit from Balasore in Odisha said it was his first experience to watch such an elegant shahi snan though he was a regular visitor of Ganga Sagar during Makar Sankranti.
Security personnel were seen helping the elderly devotees at ghats.
The next bathing day is January 27, the occasion of Paush Purnima but the next big and main shahi snan would be held on February 10, on the Mauni Amavasya, when around 30 million people are expected to take a dip in Sangam. The third Shahi Snan would be held on February 15 on Basant Panchami.
The 55-day-long Maha Kumbh which started today will end on March 10 after Maha Shivratri.