Kumbh: 90 lakh take dip on Maghi Purnima
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Commissioner (Allahabad Division), Devesh Chaturvedi, told mediapersons Monday evening that around 89 lakh people had taken the holy dip by 5 pm on the occasion of Maghi Purnima at Sangam and 21 other ghats. The estimated number was likely to go up as devotees continued to reach Sangam, he said. Heavy security had been put in place to prevent any untoward incident in the wake of the Hyderabad serial blasts of February 21.
An estimated five lakh kalpvasis had an activity-filled day as they began the process of leaving the Mela area, which had been their Spartan abode for one month. Apart from the cold conditions, they had braved two days of rain since Basant Panchami.
"These things happen. I had not come here to enjoy the luxuries of life. I had come to pray and lead a spiritual life. I would keep coming back till it is possible. Let us see how long Ganga Maiyya wants me to come here," said Shiv Shankar, a kalpvasi from Bhadohi, who has been coming to the banks of Sangam every year for over 15 years.
Like Shiv Shankar, the kalpvasis woke up early, took the holy dip and returned to their tents for havan.
This was followed by ann-daan (donating food) to their teerth purohit (or presiding priests). Traditionally, the priests gather the amount of foodgrain, donated symbolically by a kalpvasi during ann-daan, from the kalpvasis' homes over the next few months.
"The purohits also get the dakshina after the kalpvasis get their heads tonsured and beard shaved, something they abstain from for one month. They then pack their belongings and leave," said Ajay Pandey, head of the Prayagwal Sabha, the body of teerth purohits.
However, as the day progressed and devotees began filling into the Sangam area in larger numbers, the police had to stop the kalpvasis from leaving. By around 10 am, the police began making announcements requesting the kalpvasis not to leave the Mela area in their private vehicles, or tractors, due to the huge crowd pressure.
Kalpvasis apart, a few saints, who had stayed back after Basant Panchami, will also now leave the Mela area. "I will be leaving tomorrow. The stampede (in which 38 died on Mauni Amavasya at Allahabad railway station) was a painful incident, which should not have happened. We have been praying so that the souls of the victims rest in peace. Otherwise, the arrangements were fine and the administration ran the Mela as smoothly as possible," said Puri Shankaracharya Swami Adhokshjanand Dev Teerth.
Being virtually the last snan, the occasion also saw quite a few people convincing themselves not to miss the chance to be part of the biggest religious festival, despite problems. Septuagenarian Ram Shankar Tiwari of Allahabad was beaming at having reached Sangam ghat and taken bath without much hassle. "I am not permitted to walk long distances due to acute arthritis. But when so many members of my family were going, I gave myself a chance. After all, the Mela would almost get over today; there is no guarantee that I would be around for the next one," he said.
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