Haridwar: Over 50 lakh devotees along with
sages and ash-smeared Naga sadhus, took a holy dip in the
Ganga here on occasion of the first `shahi snan` of the Kumbh
on Mahashivratri today, a day also marked by the grand
procession of the `akharas` or religious orders.
"About 55 lakh people had taken the bath in the Ganges
today," chief mela officer Anand Bardhan said.
The city, abuzz with activities as devotees started
thronging the ghats since late Thursday night, was in a
festive mood as the akharas marched chanting slogans like `Bum
bum bhole`, `Har har mahadev` and bands played loud music.
The procession of the akharas, which witnessed thousands
of Naga sadhus displaying their acrobatic and martial skills,
added colour to the Kumbh Mela which started on January 14.
The procession, which marks the day when Lord Shiva
married Parvati, saw the sadhus passing through the narrow
lanes of the otherwise quite and calm city, atop their
decorated vans amid reverberating music of the bands to which
hundreds of their followers danced.
The procession was led by Gyan Das, president of the
Akhara Association consisting of 13 orders. Following him were
`Juna Akhara` Nagas and the sants including some well-known
ones like `Pilot Baba` and `Soham Baba`.
A small group of foreigners, including men and women of varied age-groups, were also members of the Juna Akhada and they too participated in the royal bath.
The Shai Snan went on till 5.30 p.m., after which other devotees were allowed to take a dip in the river.
A number of ministers and politicians too bathed on the occasion.
Prominent among them were Arunanchal Pradesh Home Minister Tako Dabi, Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, Assam`s former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta.
A thrilled Dabi later told reporters, "It`s just amazing... It appears the Maha Kumbh has transformed the holy city of Haridwar into a small world."
Airing similar sentiments, Assam`s former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta told reporters, "Such an event immensely helps revive the traditional values that are fading away with the passage of time."