NASHIK: The first 'shahi snan' of the ongoing Kumbh Mela began here today with thousands of devotees, including 'mahants' of various akhadas, thronging the ghats of River Godavari to take the holy dip.
The first akhada to take the holy dip was the Nirvani akhada, led by its mahant Gyandas Maharaj, who is also the president of the All India Akhada Parishad, who performed the ritual along with other 'sadhus' and 'mahants' at 7.15 AM. It was followed by the sadhus and mahants of the Digambar akhada, led by its mahant Krishnadas Maharaj, who took the dip in Ram kund and Ram ghat from 8.00 AM onwards.
The third and last akhada to take the dip was the Nirmohi akhada, who reached the ghats at 9.30 AM. The sadhus of the Chatu Sampraday akhada also took the royal bath. Earlier, the royal processions of the three akhadas of the Vaishnava sect, comprising mahants and mahamandleshwars atop vehicles, horses and camels decorated with flowers, which began from the Laxminarayan Temple in Tapovan here, reached the Ram kund wielding flags, swords, trishul, etc, amid beating of drums.
They were welcomed by the Maharashtra Water Resource Minister Girish Mahajan, who is also in-charge of Nashik, the Minister of State for Cooperation Dada Bhuse, city mayor Ashok Murtadak, deputy mayor Gurmeet Singh Bagga, the divisional commissioner, the district collector, the commissioner of Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) Praveen Gedam, and top police officials.
Mahajan also felicitated the mahants by giving them yellow scarves. The NMC and several social organisations have provided swimming experts at the Ram Kund to assist the people taking the dip. A life protection squad has also been deployed in the river water to prevent any drowning incident.
Thousands of sadhus and mahants, including Naga sadhus of the 10 akhadas of Shaiva sect, took the royal bath at the Kushvarta Teerth in Trimbakeshwar town which received light showers. In Trimbakeshwar, the mahants of the Shri Pancha Dashanam Juna akhada, led by mahant Harigiri Maharaj, who is also general secretary of the All India Shaddarshan akhada, took the first royal bath at 4.15 AM.
Police have made tight security arrangements by deploying extra forces in the two towns and all basic amenities for the devotees have been ensured, police said.