Faith overcomes cold as more than million take dip in Ganga at Haridwar
BY AJAY RAMOLA
MUSSOORIE, 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.
Lost and found at kumbh
The lost and found stories were repeated once again at this Kumbh. According to the Mela officials, 167 missing kith and kin were reunited with the efforts of the police. The continuous announcements also assisted in this. The advent of Mobile Phones also led to smaller number of lost cases this year, as the couples having them were in constant touch with each other. A Chaitanya (name changed) was lost at around 8 p.m. and after persistent effort by the police constables, he was recovered from under the overbridge at the ghats. The joy of the mother and child reuniting was similar to that in the films of lost and found in Kumbh of yesteryears.
Tour operators dupe foreigners at Kumbh
The foreign tourists are having a harrowing time at the Kumbh due to exorbitant prices they are having to pay for their stay here. Nathan (name changed) from the United States, said that he was paying twice the amount for every facility provided by tour operators as promised and that it was unfair and the government ought to look into this seriously if it wanted to promote religious tourism in the state. If things did not improve, they would consider other destinations like Angkor Vat in Cambodia or Bali, which were more tourist friendly.
Ganga waterway secured at Kumbh
The waterways were also guarded well and more than 2 dozen persons were saved from drowning by the well equipped divers on speed boats. They took continuous rounds of the ghats to avoid such incidents the entire day.
Clean Ganga Campaign main issue this kumbh
The discussion on starting a Clean Ganga campaign will be the hot topic for this year’s ‘Dharma Sansad’. The spokespersons of various Akharas have resolved to sort this matter out during this Kumbh to start a campaign for a free flowing and pollution free Ganga. The Akharas will be meeting after their arrival in the camps.