Simhastha Kumbh Mela starts in Nashik, Trimbakeshwar (Roundup)

Nashik-Trimbakeshwar (Maharashtra), July 14 (IANS) The Simhastha Kumbh Mela opened on Tuesday amid piety and colourful celebrations in Nashik and Trimbakeshwar in Maharashtra, with over 25,000 pilgrims arriving for the inaugural holy bath in the Godavari river.

The inaugural was marked by prayers, blowing of ‘shankhanad’ (conch shell), showering of flower petals and traditional flag hoisting at both venues. Security was tight.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis unfurled the flag at Ramkund in Nashik while union Home Minister Rajnath Singh did so at Kushavarat in Trimbakeshwar, both on the banks of the Godavari, around 45 km apart.

“Kumbh Mela is a symbol of world peace and prosperity. So, let us together make this Kumbh Mela a grand success and let it be known as ‘Harit Kumbh’ (Green Kumbh),” Fadnavis said, adding that he prayed for good rains in the state and farmers’ prosperity.

Throwing open the festival, Rajnath Singh said in Trimbakeshwar: “My good wishes to all pilgrims coming to participate in the Kumbh Mela.”

An imposing saffron flag with a gold painted lion measuring around 15×4 feet was mounted on a 40-feet-tall brass pole near Ramkund, visible to all and sundry in the bathing ghats.

Nashik, believed to be Hindu god Rama’s abode during his exile, is hosting the festival after 12 years.

Kumbh — held in four places in India — brings together millions of Hindus including the ordinary householders, mendicants and holy men in search of divinity.

The last mega gathering in Nashik in 2003 saw a stampede crushing 39 pilgrims and injuring over 100.

However, the organisers have made elaborate arrangements to receive one crore-plus pilgrims and tourists over the next 10 weeks, said Nashik Municipal Corporation Deputy Mayor Gurmeet S. Bagga.

The corporation has created fully equipped 250 acres of parking lots for around 100,000 vehicles within a 10-km range from the main bathing ghats.

From there, pilgrims travel in public buses to the bathing ghats, but must walk down the final two km.

On the three main days of ‘Shahi Snan’ or Royal Bath, August 29 and September 13 and 18, only public buses will be permitted, Bagga told IANS.

Separate routes have been created for sadhus, pilgrims and official staff.

An official spokesperson said more than one crore pilgrims were expected from India and all over the world.

Around 5-8 lakh pilgrims are expected on each of the Shahi Snan days.

The Shree Ganga Godavari Temple, at the historic Ramkund, opened its doors after 12 years to coincide with the Kumbh Mela.

The Nashik municipal corporation has made arrangements for free feeding of around half a million people daily, for the entire Simhastha Kumbh Mela festival, Bagga said.

Nashik hosts the Kumbh Mela along with Allahabad (Prayag), Haridwar and Ujjain every 12 years.

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