Allahabad: Thousands of people on Thursday bathed at the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti which also marked the beginning of the annual, month-long religious congregation "Magh Mela".
The pilgrims reached the holy "Sangam" braving cold weather and walking several miles on foot in view of traffic restrictions and tight security arrangements that were put in place.
After taking the dip, people offered prayers at temples before having "khichri" (rice cooked with pulses") and delicacies prepared with "til" (sesame) and "gur" (jaggery) consumption of which is considered auspicious on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
A huge make-shift city of tents has sprung up on the sprawling landscape around the holy Sangam where thousands of pilgrims will be doing month-long "kalpvaas", an annual ritual during which people observe austerities like bathing three times a day in the Ganges, sleeping on bare ground and having only one meal a day.
Elaborate security arrangements are in place for the Magh Mela which is marked by particularly bigger crowds on bathing festivals like Makar Sankranti, Mauni Amavasya and Basant Panchmi. 12 temporary police stations, 34 outposts and 11 fire stations have been set up in the Mela area by the district administration.
Personnel of Anti Terrorism Squad and Special Task Force of Uttar Pradesh police and teams of bomb disposal squad have been pressed into service to thwart any terrorist activity.
A number of pontoon bridges have been set up on the river Ganges to facilitate the movement of "Kalpavasis", their family members and guests and other visitors.
A total of 30 boats, carrying professional divers, have been deployed along the ghats for the safety of bathers.