PRAYAGRAJ: Braving the intense cold and foggy conditions, around 5.10 lakh devotees took holy dip in Sangam on Paush Purnima on Friday marking the beginning of 44-day Magh Mela in Prayagraj.
The day also marks the start of month-long Kalpwas where thousands of devotees live an austere life on the banks of Sangam till Maghi Purnima (February 5) and perform rituals.
Magh Mela officials said initially, all the 14 ghats recorded thin attendance during the early morning hours but the footfall increased after 11am.
Officials said devotees started thronging the ghats since 4am amid foggy weather and intense cold. The strength of devotees at 10am, 2pm and 4pm was recorded 2.05 lakh, 3.25 lakh and 4.5 lakh, respectively.
Commissioner of police Ramit Sharma told TOI, “Around 5.10 lakh devotees had taken a dip till 5 pm and the number is likely to increase with more arriving till late evening.”
He added, “Mela police had made adequate arrangements for the snan and no untoward incident was reported.”
Mela officials said moderate rush was witnessed at Sangam ghat from early hours and devotees from all over the country flocked mela campus till evening hours.
The day was important for Kalpwasis, who arrived on the banks of Sangam with the resolve to spend the month in the open without any worldly pleasure. They will spend the month (January 6 to February 5) in small tents, pay obeisance to Ganga daily, listen to religious discourses, give alms, eat one meal a day and perform ritual baths to free themselves from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
Many devotees, including saints, seers and mahants, were seen entering waist-deep water and taking holy dip.
Pithadhishwar swami Abhay Chaitanya Falahari Mauni Ji Maharaj performing “dandwat parikrama” remained a key attraction among devotees.
He performed chakravarti Dandwat Parikrama 588th times wishing for grand temples in Mathura and Kashi like Ayodhya.
A large number of women devotees from all over the country too took holy dip in Sangam, the confluence of three rivers Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, amid chants of “Jai Maa Gange and Har Har Mahadev.”
Noted religious scholar Amitabh Gour said: “Devotees take holy dip in ‘Sarvarth Siddhi Yog’ period on Paush Purnima to seek salvation. Kalpwasis have too started their month long Kalpwas.”
Reewa resident Sushma said: “Intense cold could not deter my family from taking holy dip as the feeling of taking a dip in Sangam is unparalleled. We have travelled hundreds of kilometres just for this.”
Manu, a resident of Kanpur, said: “The charm of Sangam attracts millions of devotees towards this holy site and he couldn’t resist from being part of this.”
Meanwhile, cops equipped with the latest security gadgets maintained a strict vigil throughout the day. The mela police had deployed around 5,000 policemen, including ATS commandos and personnel of para military for crowd and traffic management.
On Friday, the police allowed a restricted number of vehicles towards mela ground and worked on diversion schemes to manage the flow of devotees.

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