Thousands take holy dip in Sangam on Makar Sankranti

Thousands take holy dip in Sangam on Makar Sankranti
Braving cold wave conditions and walking several miles, thousands of devotees today took a holy dip in confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical river Saraswati on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti amidst tight security that is in place in view of the ongoing annual religious congregation of Magh Mela.

Influx of the devotees at the holy Sangam had begun much before the sunrise, notwithstanding the cold winds that have been sweeping across the city for the past few days, bringing the minimum temperature below four degrees Celsius. Religious fervour made them ignore the rigour of walking at least five to six kilometres since vehicular traffic has been completely suspended for the day around the holy confluence by the administration in anticipation of the heavy rush of devotees that takes place here every year on Makar Sankranti.

There were long queues at the myriad temples located in the vicinity of the Sangam with a steady stream of devotees visiting to offer worship after taking a holy dip. Stalls selling items made of "til" (sesame) and jaggery were doing brisk business as consumption of these on this day, when "Surya" (the Sun) is said to enter "Makar Rashi" (Capricorn), is believed to bring fortune.

According to the control room set up at the Magh Mela, more than one lakh people were estimated to have taken holy dip till noon and the influx was likely to continue till the evening. Nearly 10,000 security personnel, including those from the local police, Provincial Armed Constabulary and central paramilitary forces, were manning the Magh Mela area spread across an area of about 1000 acres, with the help of more than 100 CCTV cameras installed in various corners of the landscape.

The religious congregation, which began on January 12, coinciding with the full moon day of Hindu calendar's "Paush" month, is characterized by renunciates and householders living side by side for 30 days, observing austerities like sleeping on the ground, having only one meal a day and taking dip in the Ganges twice daily. The administration has set up 17 temporary "ghats" along the banks of the Ganges to facilitate the bathing rituals of the Kalpwasis – the term used to describe those observing the month-long austerities.

Make-shift dispensaries and a hospital has been set up by the administration to take care of the pilgrims' health care needs while arrangements have been made for other facilities like foodgrains, cooking gas, blankets and bonfire. Sensing an opportunity to boost tourism, the administration has this year also introduced hot balloons and helicopter rides for those desirous of having a panoramic view of the picturesque Magh Mela area.

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