30 million to take holy dip today

February 10, 2013 - 2:11:35 am

Devotees gather at the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna in Allahabad, yesterday. Today is the most auspicious day to take a dip.

Allahabad: Tens of millions of Hindu pilgrims prepared to cleanse their sins with a plunge into the sacred river Ganga, ahead of the most auspicious day of the world’s largest religious festival.

Some 30 million Hindu saints, devotees and visitors were expected to take part in the Maha Kumbh Mela today — considered the holiest of the 55-day festival — in north India, 

police said.

“One dip in the river has the power to change life forever,” said 65-year-old Malti Devi from London, taking part in the festivities for the first time.

The Maha Kumbh Mela, which began last month, takes place every 12 years in Allahabad in northern Uttar Pradesh state, with smaller but similar events every three years in other locations around India.

It has its origins in Hindu tradition, which tells how a few drops of the nectar of immortality fell on the four places that host the festival — Allahabad, Nasik, Ujjain and Haridwar.

Devotees believe entering the mighty river cleanses them of sin and frees them of the cycle of birth and rebirth. Many believe some three billion Hindu deities will also take a dip in the sacred river to bless mankind today.

The festival, which draws ash-covered holy men, a smattering of international celebrities as well as millions of ordinary Indians, yesterday welcomed new waves of devotees. Nude  ash-smeared mystics, known as sadhus, and swamis and gurus clad in flowing robes streamed into the festival grounds.

Today, when the water is considered the holiest and most auspicious, is “the most crucial day for the pilgrims and for police”, Ajit Tyagi, a police officer in Allahabad, told AFP. “We have to make sure everyone is safe.”

Over 7,000 policemen have been deployed to oversee today’s bathing ritual, along with 30,000 volunteers, he said.

The “safety of women and children is our first priority”, said Tyagi, adding that over 10 million women were expected to participate in the big 

bathing day. AFP