Last Shahi Snan at Maha Kumbh; fire leaves sadhu dead

Written by PTI | Allahabad | Updated: Feb 16 2013, 03:52am hrs
Lakhs of pilgrims took a holy dip at Sangam today on the occasion of Basant Panchami along with ascetics belonging to various sects for their third and last 'Shahi Snan' of Maha Kumbh, where a sadhu died in an early morning fire.

Naga sadhus of various orders led the devotees in taking a holy dip at the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati.

"70 lakh people have taken a holy dip till the end of the Shahi Snan," Divisional Commissioner of Allahabad Devesh Chaturvedi said.

The 'Shahi Snan' processions were, however, on a low key today in the wake of Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad's decision to keep them simple after a stampede at the Allahabad railway station on Mauni Amavasya (February 10), the second and biggest of the 'Shahi Snans', left 36 people dead.

Although the administration had claimed that more than one crore people were expected to turn up on Basant Panchami, the lower than expected turnout could be because of inclement weather and apprehensions regarding their safety.

The Naga sadhus walked unobtrusively in processions devoid of the musical bands which normally play devotional tunes when the ascetics with ash-smeared naked bodies, matted hair, swords and spears in their hands and wearing garlands of marigold and rudraksh take the holy dip.

High-ranking officials of the Akharas orders of martial ascetics set up by Adi Sankara known as Mahamandaleshwars and Shri Mahants - too kept their march to the Sangam low key sans caparisoned horses and elephants and decorated chariots, which impart a regal splendour to the spectacle in sync with the term Shahi Snan (royal bath).

After today's Shahi Snan, the 12 yearly congregation loses steam with sadhus associated with various Akharas and other religious leaders preparing to leave the venue.

Although no untoward incident was reported during the day, a fire broke out in Sector 4 of the Kumbh Mela area early this morning, leaving a Sadhu dead.

The fire, which also left two persons injured, occurred barely three hours after a number of tents were gutted elsewhere in the Mela area though nobody was injured.