Lakhs take holy dip as 'Maha Kumbh' begins
A sea of humanity converged for the religious event dubbed as the "greatest show on earth" and with the break of dawn, 'Mahanirvani akhara', along with 'Atal akhara' began their majestic "royal bathing procession (shahi snan)" with 'naga' ascetics in the vanguard.
Opulence appeared to be rubbing shoulders with austerity in the grand procession wherein 'naga' sadhus with matted hair and little or no clothes on their ash-smeared bodies presented a glowing contrast alongside the 'mahamandaleshwars' and religious leaders of other sects who came atop well-decorated chariots, horses and elephants.
While the naga ascetics wore garlands of marigold and 'rudraksh', others displayed ornaments and crowns of gold in abundance.
Thousands of curious onlookers, with a fair sprinkling of foreigners, watched these processions and presented a a vast panoramic view of the country's unity in diversity.
On reaching the riverside, the sadhus first worshipped their traditional weapons like tridents and spears and their deities before proceeding for a holy dip in the Sangam.
These two akharas were followed by 11 other sects with time ranging from 30 minutes to about an hour allotted to each of them depending upon the size of their respective procession.
These 'akharas', originally set up by Adi Sankaracharya in the 8th century to defend and propagate Vedic religion, grew in
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