Allahabad: Two pilgrims were killed in a stampede at the Maha Kumbh in Allahabad on Sunday as over three crore people converged for a holy dip on the occasion of 'Mauni Amavasya', considered the most auspicious day during the 12-yearly congregation. The stampede broke out in Sector 12 of the mela area on Sunday evening killing a woman hailing from Varanasi and a middle-aged man, who had come from West Bengal, Sector Magistrate Abhay Raj said. A few other persons received minor injuries in the stampede which occurred due to rush of devotees who were returning from the river banks, he said, adding the situation was under control and the injured were undergoing treatment.
A sea of humanity converged on Sunday at the sprawling city of tents, spread across 6,000 acres, making it briefly the most populous place in the world. "As per our estimates, three crore people have taken a holy dip till 3 pm. The influx of visitors has slowed down a bit since then but the turn-out has already exceeded our expectations," Kumbh Mela Officer Mani Prasad Mishra said. Devotees kept surging towards Sangam, the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati throughout the day, while the 13 'akharas' (sects) of sadhus took out their processions for the second 'Shahi Snan' (royal bath) during the Maha Kumbh.
Amid chants of 'Har Har Gange', devotees including a fair sprinkling of foreigners, watched awestruck as 'naga sadhus' with their matted hair, ash-smeared naked bodies adorned with garlands of marigold and 'rudraksh' moved in processions with their 'Shri Mahants' and 'Mahamandaleshwars' (seers) perched atop decorated chariots, horses and elephants. A number of VIPs, including political heavyweights, film stars and business tycoons have visited the Kumbh over the past few weeks. However, the administration had banned any film promotional activity in the Kumbh area to prevent any situation which could lead to a stampede.
The ritual of bathing started yesterday afternoon itself when 'Mauni Amavasya' began according to the Hindu almanac and reached its crescendo on Sunday morning. A steady stream of devotees was seen at railway stations and bus stations where people from nearby as well as far-off places took to roads and pathways all of which seemed to be leading towards the Sangam on this day. A railway station in the neighbouring district of Pratapgarh was vandalised on Sunday morning by people angry over non-availability of a special train for a trip to the holy Sangam.
Tight security arrangements were in place with more than 15,000 security personnel drawn from central paramilitary forces like ITBP, CRPF, BSF and RAF besides the Uttar Police and its Provincial Armed Constabulary and Anti Terrorist Squad keeping a close vigil. Besides, the Army conducted aerial surveys every few minutes.
Prominent personalities who have visited the Kumbh are Union Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, BJP chief Rajnath Singh and other politicians including Subodh Kant Sahay and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the Hinduja brothers, Anil Ambani with his mother Kokilaben, film producer Ekta Kapoor, actors Shilpa Shetty, Emraan Hashmi, Rajpal Yadav and Ashutosh Rana and stand-up comedian Raju Srivastava. A number of classical musicians like Pandit Jasraj, Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Malini Awasthi also enthralled people with their performances at the Kumbh area.