FIFTY –day Kumbh Mela commenced with the Shahi Snan of Akharas (camps) at Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh today. ”Chalo Kumbh Chale” is the slogan and also the mantra for peace maybe for thousands of visitors who arrived in the city on Monday for the Kumbh Mela, claimed to be the largest congregation of Hindu pilgrims. An estimated 2.5 crore devotees had a ritual dip in the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganga, Jamuna and the invisible Saraswati river. River Saraswati, repeatedly mentioned in the Rig Veda, the earliest of the four Vedas, started drying up during the Mahabharata War. Both central and Uttar Pradesh have left no stone unturned to make the Kumbh Mela a lively and memorable event. Artists have created all over the tent city as many murals with various themes are as possible keeping in mind India’s tradition, culture and civilization. An spokesman said 20 lakh square feet have been allotted to the artists’ ‘The Kumbh Mela is the largest human congregation in the world, with over 130 million pilgrims expected to participate in the festival with the belief that taking a dip in the holy water of Ganga River will help the attain salvation and free them from sins.Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is taking keen interest in the religious fest is expected to take a holy dip. Meanwhile , Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani took a holy dip in the Ganga at Kumbh Mela soon after it was kicked off by seers.She tweeted a picture of her holy dip, with the caption “Har Har Gange”..She was among lakhs of pilgrims who gathered at the crack of dawn at the sacred Sangam for a ritual dip in the sacred rivers marking the beginning of the Kumbh Mela. Countless pilgrims have set up camps or akhadas on the river banks.Makar Sankranti, which marks the beginning of the festival, is one of the sacred bathing days of the event. Each year, devotees brave the cold weather to take a dip in the icy water as early as 4 in the morning. About 12 crore people are expected to visit the Kumbh between now and Maha Shivratri on March 4, when the Mela will conclude, said officials. It was traditionally called ”Ardh Kumbh” as it takes place twice in 12 years, but the present Uttar Pradesh government recently renamed it ”Kumbh”. Nearly 30,000 police have been deployed to oversee crowds for the huge undertaking, and prevent stampedes that have marred previous gatherings. Patrol drones buzzed over a 45-square kilometre encampment set aside specially for pilgrims.
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