Chanting Gayatri Mantra, lakhs throng Haridwar

Across the length and breadth of Hardiwar, more so all along the banks of the Ganges, yellow saris, yellow kurtas and yellow shirts abound as far as one can see.

The organisers, the Gayatri Pariwar, say lakhs are attending the five-day event that began Sunday and is aimed at propagating the "Gayatri Mantra", the foremost mantra in Hinduism. Its chanting is said to remove obstacles and increase wisdom and spiritual growth.

Shopkeepers, residents, local traders and even officials in this temple town admit it is one of the best behaved gatherings they have seen.

Devotees are thronging Hardiwar from all over India although the bulk of the participation has come from Gujarat, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and parts of southern and eastern India.

Leaders cutting across political parties are praising the meticulous organisation of the "Gayatri Mahakumbh", which is set to host some 50 lakh people over five days.

Indians or people of Indian origin who have come from abroad are impressed.

Kalpesh Patel, who lives in New Jersey in the US, calls the Haridwar crowd management "unbelievable".

"It appears to be a magical experience... A sea of people without creating any problem," Patel told IANS.

Ramkinkar Singh, who has come from Ara in Bihar, says even the periodic Kumbh fair -- which too attract millions -- pales into insignificance in comparison.

"There is no comparison between the two events," said Singh, a frequent visitor to Kumbh. "Everything here is going according to script."

While police are on the streets, security arrangements are largely handled by Gayatri Pariwar activists.

Volunteers managing traffic and security have received praise from the authorities.

Said Senior Superintendent of Police Pushkar Singh Sailal: "There have been no problems in the town due to such a large influx of people, traffic or any other issue."

Shopowners are happy over a sudden surge in business during their otherwise off season.

A mini India has come up in a sprawling tented township along the Ganges. People from different states are accommodated separately so their food and other requirements can be easily met.

In townships housing people from Tamil Nadu, for instance, announcements are made in Tamil.

The event marks the centenary celebrations of Gayatri Pariwar's founder Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya. The group commands millions as members both within the country and abroad.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri said Saturday that the government needed to learn crowd management from Gayatri Pariwar.

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