Throughout most of Sunday, men, women and children on tractors, autorickshaws, cars, two-wheelers, or the ones driving SUVs, kept pouring in into the Kumbh Mela area hoping to settle down in time for the auspicious bath on Makar Sankranti on Monday, which would mark the beginning of Kumbh-2013, the biggest religious festival on earth.
The administration, meanwhile, is keeping its fingers crossed saying it would be the first test of all the preparations made so far. At least 10,000 police personnel have been deployed to keep the first bath incident-free. Around 30,000 in all would be present over the next few days. Commandos of the Anti-Terrrorist Squad (ATS), anti-sabotage teams, sniffer dogs, landmine checking teams would be working round-the-clock to prevent any untoward incident. More than 5,500 sanitation workers have also been deployed to keep the Mela area clean.
The Kumbh Mela this time would last for 56 days. More than eight crore people are expected to visit Sangam and the preparations have been made with a budget of around Rs 1,200 crore.
Devotion, faith or rituals, virtually anything and everything that is associated with the Hindu religion seems to be bringing people here. For instance, Ram Chandra Ojha, from Kailali district in Nepal, came to Allahabad on Saturday along with 18 of his family members and village-mates, including women, for shraddh (post-funeral rites) of his ancestors.
The shraddh was performed on Sunday, but the group decided to brave the winter chill sleeping under an open sky just to be able to take the holy dip on the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti (when Sun enters in Capricorn zodiac as per Hindu mythology) on Monday, marking the beginning of the Kumbh-2013.
Ojhas group settled for the open sky just outside a make-shift night shelter on Triveni Road towards Sangam because it had become chock-a-block with people.
Barely 100 metres from the night shelter is the camp of Mahanirvani akhara, which will take lead the shahi snan (royal bath).
Talking about the preparations, secretary of Mahanirvani akhara, Swami Ravindra Puri, says: The tradition never changes. There will be four horses, one of which will be without any rider, as it is believed that our isht devta (resident deity) would be astride it. The Mahamandaleshwars will be seated on their silver thrones, mounted on tractors. There would be no elephants. During the times of kings, the saints used to be taken to the Sangam in royal splendour. This