The grand Kumbh Mela commences in Prayagraj

The Prayagraj Kumbh mela, the grand congregation of Hindu devotees that takes place four times over a course of 12 years, begins today. The festivities commenced with the ‘shahi snan’ or the holy dip with sadhus from 13 akhadas (tent) taking a dip in the rivers along where the mela takes place.

The ritual of Shahi Snan dates back to centuries. It is believed that the tradition of a Shahi Snan meaning a royal dip, began during the 14th-16th century. Today, millions of pilgrims, plunged themselves into the cold waters during the first Shahi Snan, that began at around 4am.

More than 12 crore people are expected to take part in the events over the next 50 days. 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.

During the eight-week festival, authorities are expecting around one million foreign visitors arrive at Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh, to bathe at the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the Saraswati. It is believed that taking a dip in the river before the mahurat helps one attain immortality.