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1-min read

Smriti Irani Takes Holy Dip as Kumbh Mela Begins in Prayagraj; Millions Expected on First 'Shahi Snan'

Authorities have set up temporary bridges, 600 mass kitchens and more than 100,000 portable toilets in a pop-up city at the confluence of the rivers, which is known as the sangam.

News18.com

Updated:January 15, 2019, 9:31 PM IST
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Smriti Irani Takes Holy Dip as Kumbh Mela Begins in Prayagraj; Millions Expected on First 'Shahi Snan'
Smriti Irani taking a holy dip at the Kumbh Mela. (Twitter)
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Prayagraj: Pilgrims from across the world will arrive in Prayagraj on Tuesday as the Kumbh Mela begins amid a heady mix of spirituality, politics and tourism.

During the eight-week festival at Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh, authorities expect up to 150 million people, including a million foreign visitors, to bathe at the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna, and a mythical third river, the Saraswati.

Union minister Smriti Irani was one of the first VIP pilgrims at the site and also tweeted a picture of her holy dip.

Hindus believe that bathing in the waters of the Ganga absolves people of sins and bathing at the time of the Kumbh Mela brings salvation from the cycle of life and death.

"Belief is what brings us here, to bathe in the waters despite the cold," said Ram Krishna Dwivedi, making his way back from the shore dressed in flowing white robes.

On Tuesday, millions of pilgrims, plunged themselves into the cold waters during the first Shahi Snan, or Royal Bath, that began at around 4am.

Authorities have set up temporary bridges, 600 mass kitchens and more than 100,000 portable toilets in a pop-up city at the confluence of the rivers, which is known as the sangam.

Most pilgrims make do with more modest lodgings, sleeping in big communal tents or out in the open. "I don't know where I will stay yet, but you do not often get to meet these saints and sadhus," said Rajendra Singh, a retired soldier and now a security guard, who came by bus from Lucknow.

On Monday, a small fire broke out at one of the camps, though there was no report of any casualty. Authorities later warned pilgrims about open fires.

This year's event comes at a critical time for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is gearing up for a tough contest in the 2019 general elections. The party lost power in three key states in assembly elections in December, and will want to avoid a similar result during the general election in Uttar Pradesh — a state where a good showing can often decide the outcome.

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