14 Jan : Braving the winter chill, thousands of devotees on Thursday took a holy dip in the Ganga at Haridwar heralding the start of the three-month-long Maha Kumbh, considered the largest religious congregation that takes place once in 12 years.
The holy town of Haridwar braced on itself to the start of a three-month-long Kumbh mela, touted as the largest religious congregation on earth, with 25 lakh people set to take the holy bath on Thursday morning amid multi-layered security arrangements thrown in place.
The otherwise calm and quiet city is abuzz with activities as eight lakh devotees, sadhus and tourists have already converged in Haridwar.
Over 25 lakh people are expected to take the bath in the Ganga on Thursday on the occasion of ‘Makar Sankranti’ the day when the sun starts to move northwards marking the decline of winter and start of Uttarayan.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said all steps have been taken to ensure incident-free fair.”Heavy security has been put in place for smooth conduct of the Mahakumbh,” Nishank told.
“All arrangements have been made. Security forces have been deployed at 130 sq km area,” Kumbh mela in-charge Anand Vardhan said, adding in view of the huge gathering, organisers are working closely with state and central security agencies to thwart any untoward incident.
“There is always a serious threat. In fact where such huge crowd gathers, there is always a potential,” he said.From fresh tarred and pothole-free roads to banners welcoming the devotees, the city springs with clean and tidy look ahead of the Kumbh.
Temporary camps have been set up for about 12 lakh sadhus, 40,000 officers and other staff members.Spread over an area of 130 sq km, the Kumbh has been divided into 12 zones and 32 sectors.
Thirty-four police stations and 42 makeshift posts have been set up besides the 36 temporary fire stations.Public announcement systems have been set up at every nook and corner of the city along with CCTV cameras zooming in on all activities.