Lucknow: The countdown for Maha Kumbh 2013, beginning on Jan 14, has started, as hundreds of religious seers and followers of the Juna Akahada, Agni and Avahan Akahadas entered the Mela premises near the Sangam in Allahabad on Tuesday. The Sangam, the spot near where the Maha Kumbh occurs, is the intersection of rivers Yamuna and Ganga; the mythical Saraswati is also believed to meet these two rivers here.
The Juna Akhada did the 'peshwai' (leading from the front) in the afternoon, signalling the beginning of the Kumbh. Led by Shivanand Giri Maharaj and Avdheshanand Giri, seated on silver thrones atop horse chariots, the members of the Juna Akhada, said to be the oldest of the 13 akhada's (sects) in the world of saints, danced to religious songs and to the beating of drums and blowing of conches, as they made way into the sprawling mela area. The Juna Akahada was formed by Adi Guru Shankracharya and is considered to be the oldest of the akhadas, thus given the honour of leading the saints.
Hundreds of 'naga sadhus' (naked sages), foreigners, disciples and followers, sitting on elephants and horses, some walking barefoot, waved to onlookers as their procession headed towards the mela parisar (the area where the Kumbh is held) from the busy lanes of Allahabad. Flowers were showered from the houses en route and after the entry into the mela premises, all the akahadas propitiated their gods and later offered and distributed 'prasad' of curd and khichdi.
In the coming weeks, other akahadas would also troop into the mela premises and as the Maha Kumbh is formally inaugurated on the holy day of Makar Sankranti on Jan 14, the two-month-long holy congregation would begin. The mela organisers expect more than four crore people to converge on the banks of the Sangam for Maha Kumbh 2013. Elaborate arrangements are being made to ensure a smooth and safe congregation at the Kumbh, much-hyped as the biggest gathering on earth.