This is an eyewitness report from the NowPublic member azzayindia who was on the scene.
Kumbh Experience at Haridwar 2010
Haridwar, 13 Jan: More than ten lakh devotees are expected to take the holy dip in the Ganga on the auspicious occasion of the First Snan on Makar Sankranti day in their quest for liberation. The security was tightened further as two more companies of PAC arrived amidst the already strong presence of the force ranging from RAF, BMP to the Uttarakhand Police.
Senior Police official Ajay Rautela said that extra vigil was being observed and all the units were on high alert for the first snan of Kumbh 2010.
The Kumbh Mela Adhikari Anand Bardhan disclosed that more than 25,000 camp sites had been allotted, so far, for the period of Kumbh lasting several months. A large number of camp sites are being used by the police personnel on duty at Kumbh. The religious seers and well known pontiffs have also arrived for the holy dip on Makar Sankranti and attribute great importance to the ‘snan’ falling on this day. According to the religious heads like Swami Ramchander Das from Digambar Akhara, Makar Sankranti on 14 January, 2010 is the first important bathing date during the Kumbh Mela. He further said that the Vedic calendar spoke of the period in mid-January when the Kumbha Mela usually begins was astrologically very special and auspicious as the sun passed through the winter solstice, from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn. The sun enters Makara Rashi or Capricorn. This astrological change is called Makara Sankramana or Makar Sankranti, which means transition – this transition is of great significance as the change is in a positive direction. The days get brighter from Makar Sankranti onwards and it signifies a fresh start after winter.
Swami Ramchander Das also said that the popular belief during the Kumbh was that bathing on Makar Sankranti cleanses the sins of a devotee and prepares him for liberation or Moksha. According to a vedic astrologer of international repute from Mussoorie, Jaikishan Shah, this is the time when the Sun moves in to the Capricorn sign as well northern hemisphere. The ancient law of astrology believes that it is auspicious when the Sun comes into the northern hemisphere, because it vibrates positive energies. There is a great example in the Mahabharata when Bhishm Pitamaha awaited the Sun entering the northern hemisphere before giving up his life. The healing power of the Ganga also increases on Makar Sankranti due to the unique alignment of the Sun, Moon, and Jupiter, added Jaikishan Shah.
The Government is leaving no stone unturned in the bid to create a celebratory atmosphere. This was evident from the newly constructed Control Room for Kumbh being illuminated at night along with other Ghats, including Har-Ki-Pauri.
Virendar Singh a devotee from Delhi on his second visit to Kumbh said that the sanitary conditions were far better than at the previous Kumbh. The police personnel were also seen picking up the plastic garbage left by devotees at the ghats. Brisk checking was seen at all the entrances of the ghats including Har-Ki-Pauri.
However, the Kumbh ambience was missing, for which many blame the dipping temperatures and tight security. A centre to deal with swine flu cases was also activated as lakhs are expected for the snan. Indonesian students attending Kumbh for the first time were also glad to be here and said that they were looking forward to this experience of the largest gathering of humanity on earth.
Latest from Kumbh Experience:
Faith overcomes cold as more than million take dip in Ganga at Haridwar
BY AJAY RAMOLA
HARIDWAR, 14 Jan: The fear of cold affecting the First Snan at the Maha Kumbh was laid to rest today as Hindus of all denominations in large number took a dip at the Brahm Kund (Har-Ki- Pauri) at Haridwar on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti, ushering in the start of the Kumbh Mela 2010. According to the Kumbh Mela Officer Anand Bardhan, more than 10 Lakh pilgrims took the holy dip in the Ganga on an incident free first day of bathing at the Kumbh Mela 2010.
The ‘snan’ began as early as midnight and the devotees kept arriving in large numbers at the ghats amidst tight security. A more than 16,000 strong force ensured that no untoward incident took place. ADG Satyavrat Bansal and IG, Garhwal, MA Ganapathy ensured the safety of pilgrims at the ghats in person. In addition to this, DGP Subhash Joshi also arrived at the scene at noon.
Mela Adhikari Anand Bardhan, Mela Official Ajay Rautela, SSP Sanjay Gunjyal, ASP Rajiv Swaroop and senior officials of the police and administration took regular rounds to ensure safety and security of the mela area. The crowds swelled with the rising sun and more than 2.5 lakh devotees had taken their dips by 8:15 a.m. The endless sea of humanity walked several kilometers as the roads were cordoned off outside Haridwar city by police.
At the ghats, the outpouring of emotions was evident and the oldest religion in the world renewed its faith with every dip by the devotees. Jamuna Devi and her family from Ahmedabad said, “We had to be here to pay our reverence to Mother Ganga. Cold or warm, it is a question of faith”. Her group from Ahmedabad was the main attraction for the foreign Photo-Journalists, who in search of naked Sadhus were literally sulking at their absence, but the arrival of Jamuna Devi and her family sparked in them a new release of creative energy and she was hounded like a film star due to the colourful Gujarati tribal attire. She posed gleefully in front of the national and international cameras. British photo-journalist Andy was mesmerised by the many colours in the dress. “This can be witnessed only in India,” he added.
Tarun, aged 4 from Delhi, was somewhat in shock after his first dip in the Ganga. “We are trying to inculcate a sense of faith and Hindu tradition in our child ,so that he makes it a point to visit Kumbh even after 12 years,” said his parents.
Ramesh Rathore from Ajmer, aged 52, was glad to be part of the Kumbh, which was his second in succession. Paying his obeisance to Mother Ganga, he said, “For people from Rajasthan, Ganga is not just a river but the soul and life provider, the mother. The first touch of the Ganga brought tears to my eyes.” Raju Thapa, aged 12, from a village in Nepal said that he had never seen so many people at one place in his life. For him it will be moment to cherish.
ASP Rajiv Swaroop, who was motivating the Safai Karamcharis at the Ghat, said that they ought to be alert to any suspicious activities and also promised recognition for a job well done.
David, a Dutch documentary filmmaker, covering the Kumbh for the first time, said that the lure of Naked Sadhus brought him here and he was understanding the culture at the surface and presenting it to the audience back home.
The aged pilgrims were provided assistance by a newly introduced EMRI 108 motorcycle service, which was placed at the Har-Ki-Pauri entrance. They checked Blood Pressure, etc.
Rizwan, a volunteer, said that they had a complete first aid kit in the bike and 20 such bikes had been deployed for the Kumbh.
A veteran at covering the Kumbh, photo-journalist Bhumesh Bharti said that this was the only place in the world where a sea of humanity gathered to perform one task, simultaneously, which is the holy dip in the Ganga. This was the beauty of the Kumbh Mela.
Latest new3s from Kumbh:
By LP Thapa
Haridwar, 15 Jan: More than 9 lakhs devotees took a holy dip at Har-Ki-Pauri on the occasion of Mauni Amawasya and Solar eclipse here today; just a day after the Maha Kumbh, first of the century, took off on Thursday. A bright sunny day added to the joy and comfort of the pilgrims.
The crowd was far greater than that of previous day. The coincidence of Makar Sakranti and Solar eclipse falling together had drawn a greater number of devotees in Har-ki Pauri.
It was after 565 years that the coincidence had taken place.
With passing of Solar eclipse minute by minute, huge numbers of devotees pouring into the ghats, making difficult for the police personnel to manage the crowd. Every devotee wanted to take a dip at Brahmakund, for the ‘Amrit (nector)’ that was extracted from the ‘Samundramathan’ by Devtas’ had fallen in this spot. Lucky ones managed to reach the Brhamakund but the majority could not do so as security personnel stopped them to avoid overcrowd and possible stampede. The unfortunate ones diverted themselves to some other ghats. Many of them lost their way and had to be guided by the police.
Nevertheless, it was life time experience for these devotees who had gathered from all over the India and other countries. Great numbers of devotees from Nepal were seen taking a dip as Makar Sakranti is one of the most important occasion for them.
With the Sun coming out of the shadow of Moon, gradually the crowd increased. Several preferred to take a dip during the eclipse, many waited to end it. It was the longest partial eclipse after 1,000 years and the first of 2010. In India this annular solar eclipse began at 11.06 am and reached the peak at 1.15 pm. It ended for about 10 minutes. The next such solar eclipse will be seen in 3043, according to the astrologers.
By LP Thapa
HARIDWAR, 15 Jan: For this unique devotee, journey for Maha Kumbh was a five months long affair. Surprisingly for him, Dip in the holy Ganges does not bear much significance. It is a mere religious formality for him.
“Taking dip may cleanse your body but not soul,” believes Rajendra Das, who hailed from Gujarat. He began his journey to Haridwar on the day of Diwali, from his little known village Hasot, in Barot district of Gujarat. He did not ride train nor any bus. He began his journey on his improvised bi-cycle that looks like a temple, with flag, a ‘Kalash’ atop, head light, bell and of course a rear mirror and strong enough Career to carry his belongings.
Das, who is an ardent devotee of Hanuman, reached Haridwar on 13 January via Bagdana, Somnath, Junagarh and took a holy dip on the first day of Maha Kumbh (14th Jan.). However, this sadhu’s long journey to Haridwar is just a formality to carry out instructions of his ‘Dharma Parishad’. For him the dip bears no significance. “You can attain Moksha only through singing bhajans and not by taking a holy dip,” he said in a philosophic note and headed towards Indore where he is scheduled to visit a temple of his Lord Hanuman. His belonging includes just bedding, a silver utensil and religiously a repair tools for his bi-cycle.