Maha Kumbh 2013: Stage set for the biggest religious gathering

Maha Kumbh Mela

Maha Kumbh Mela, often described as the "greatest show on earth" globally, is all set to begin here tomorrow with millions of people from across the country as well as abroad expected to attend the religious gathering.

The Mela, held every 12 years, will go on for next two months and will conclude on Maha Shivaratri on March 10.

Expecting a turn out of about 1.1 crore people to take holy dip tomorrow on Makar Sankranti, the administration has put in place elaborate security arrangements to thwart any kind of terrorist activity, prevent stampedes or any other type of law and order challenge.

The administration are expecting a nearly 10 per cent rise in pilgrims attending the mass Hindu pilgrimage this year compared to the previous Maha Kumbh held here in 2001.

Exceptionally large crowds are also expected on Mauni Amavasya (February 10, 3 crore) and Basant Panchmi (February 15, 1.9 crore).

Besides, spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Baba Ramdev and Asaram Bapu, also have planned their visits.

The huge turnout of people, visits of high-profile gurus in addition to the presence of naga sanyasis have increased the pressure on police and administration for smooth functioning of the Kumbh Mela.

A lurking fear of terrorist strike has further heightened the challenges in recent years.

"More than 7,000 personnel of central paramilitary forces, including companies of the Rapid Action Force and the National Disaster Response Force, have been pressed into service," IGP (Allahabad) Alok Sharma, designated as the nodal officer for security arrangements during the Maha Kumbh, said.

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