Ujjain, May 21 (IANS) The final sacred bath of the month-long Simhastha Kumbh started on Saturday morning with ascetics belonging to the Juna Akhara first taking a dip in the Kshipra river in this district of Madhya Pradesh.
The end of the bathing ritual on Saturday will conclude the religious festival which had started on April 22.
The sacred bath started as early as 3 a.m. with the Naga sadhus — the Shaivite ascetics with their naked bodies smeared in ash and uncut knotted hair — leaving their encampments for the ghat of Kshipra that was allotted to them.
Their march to the bathing ghat was conducted with ostentatious ceremony, also featuring palanquins and horses.
As other Akharas took their turns for the elaborate ceremonies of going for the holy dip, the roads to Kshipra were choc-a-bloc with sadhus.
An Akhara is an order of sadhus — ascetics or renunciates — who view themselves as defending Dharma.
Narendra Giri, the president of the All India Akhara Council, said it was a historical coincidence that members of Shaiv and Vaishnav Akharas — traditional rivals and prone to pinpricking each other — had their sacred baths at the same time.
Ujjain was also awash on Saturday in a sea of humanity availing itself of religious rewards on the last day of the Kumbh.
The administration made special arrangements for the security of the devotees and medical emergencies.
Each Akhara was provided with an ambulance along with medical and paramedical staff, Chief Medical Officer N.K. Trivedi said.