Maha Kumbh Mela: Huge crowd arrives for holy dip on 'Mauni Amavasya'
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The day also marks the second 'Shahi Snan' of sadhus belonging to various 'Akharas'.
According to a rough estimate by officials, the number of people to have taken a dip by the crack of dawn appears to be "not less than 20 lakhs" and the final turnout may exceed the projected estimate of three crore.
Devotees started arriving at the bathing 'ghats' along the banks of the Ganga since last night itself as the special celestial configuration which makes Mauni Amavasya auspicious has been in place since yesterday afternoon.
The 12-yearly Maha Kumbh congregations are known to reach their climax, in terms of turnouts, on Mauni Amavasya and the administration has made arrangements expecting nearly three crore visitors this year.
Tight security arrangements are in place with more than 15,000 security personnel drawn from central paramilitary forces like ITBP, CRPF, BSF and RAF besides the Uttar Police and its Provincial Armed Constabulary and Anti Terrorist Squad keeping a close vigil.
The star attraction of the day remains 'Shahi Snan' of the 'Akharas' - orders of martial ascetics established by Adi Sankara - which proceeded, in turns, towards the holy river's confluence with Yamuna and mythical Saraswati in majestic processions.
The Maha Kumbh witnesses altogether three 'Shahi Snans', the first of which took place on Makar Sankranti (January 14) and the third and last is scheduled on Basant Panchmi (February 15).
There are altogether 13 'Akharas' belonging to various sects and each of them have been allotted specific time, ranging from 30 minutes to an hour, depending upon the size of their procession.
While the elderly went through the rituals observing a vow of silence (the word Mauni is derived from maun which means silence), others watched the sight of swords and spears wielding 'Naga' ascetics moving about with ash smeared on their bodies.
While the 'Naga sadhus' are reaching the venue from their respective camps on foot, their leaders known by honorifics like 'Shri Mahant' and 'Mahamandaleshwar' cover the distance perched atop richly-decorated chariots with musical bands playing devotional tunes.
Make-shift roads have been laid down with the help of metallic chequered plates with barricading on both sides to ensure that the 'Shahi Snan' processions go on without any inconvenience.