Akharas led out relatively quiet processions in view of Allahabad station stampede

Amid enhanced transport and security facilities, over 60 lakh devotees converged on the Sangam for a holy dip on Basant Panchami on Friday.

With this ends the third and final Shahi Snan (royal bath) of the Maha Kumbh Mela, which is held here every 12 years. Traditionally, the akharas (religious denominations) proceed to Varanasi for their post-Kumbh ceremonies after this.

The snan on Friday started at 5.15 a.m. and ended at 4.45 p.m. Divisional Commissioner Devesh Chaturvedi said that while there was some delay due to rain, the snans were a smooth affair.

The number of people taking a dip at the Sangam was expected to climb to 70 lakh by the end of Friday, he added.

However, unlike the previous two shahi snans, on Basant Panchami and Makara Sankranti, the akharas led out relatively quiet processions to condole the death of 36 pilgrims in Sunday’s stampede at the Allahabad Railway Station. Musical bands, which usually add pomp to the processions, were excluded and some Mahamandaleshwars marched on foot. The administration had expected a crowd of over 1.9 crore.

Like the order followed so far, the Maha Nirvani Akhara began the snans while the Nirmal akhara was the last one to lead the procession.

The Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation is running 6,000 buses and the Railways are plying two dozen special trains at various stations in the district for.

Traffic diversions and parking rules have been altered while temporary holding areas were established in the city and close to the junction to regulate pedestrian movement and to allow pilgrims space and means to rest.

The administration has also restricted the entry of vehicles into the mela after the Allahabad High Court on Thursday ordered the seizure of all vehicles other than ambulances and those of police and magistrates.

Besides 30,000 security personnel, including commandos of the antiterrorist squads and the Central Reserve Police Force, sniffer dogs, mine detection and bomb disposal squads are working round-the-clock.

The security of the akharas has been enhanced in the wake of the hanging of Afzal Guru.

The Railway Protection Force and the Government Railway Police were also put on high alert following Sunday’s stampede.

The 55-day mega event, which began on January 14, will conclude on March 10 on the occasion of Maha Shivratri. The next snan is on Maghi Purnima (February 25).