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Jan 14, 2013 at 12:03pm IST

Maha Kumbh Mela begins today, over one crore people expected to take the holy dip

Allahabad: Maha Kumbh Mela, often described as the greatest show on earth, begins on Monday with millions of people from across the country and world expected to attend the religious gathering in Allahabad. The Mela, held every 12 years, will go on for next two months and will conclude on Maha Shivaratri on March 10.

On the occasion of Maha Sankranti on Monday, over one crore people are estimated to take a dip in the confluence of three holy rivers - the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. Elaborate security arrangements have been put in place in Allahabad to thwart any kind of terrorist activity, stampedes or law and order challenges.

The city administration expects a rise of nearly 10 per cent in pilgrims attending the mass Hindu pilgrimage in 2013 compared to the previous Maha Kumbh held here in 2001. Exceptionally large crowds of around two to three crore people are also expected on Mauni Amavasya (February 10) and Basant Panchmi (February 15). Besides, spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Baba Ramdev and Asaram Bapu, also have planned their visits.

The huge turnout of people, visits of high-profile gurus in addition to the presence of naga sanyasis have increased the pressure on police and administration for smooth functioning of the Kumbh Mela. A lurking fear of terrorist strike has further heightened the challenges in recent years.

"More than 7,000 personnel of central paramilitary forces, including companies of the Rapid Action Force and the National Disaster Response Force, have been pressed into service," IGP (Allahabad) Alok Sharma, designated as the nodal officer for security arrangements during the Maha Kumbh, said.