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Faith prevails over fear as Magh Mela begins

 
Prayagraj (Uttar Pradesh), Jan 14 (IANS) Faith prevailed over fear and lakhs of devotees, throwing caution to the winds, took a holy dip at Sangam on Friday to mark the auspicious occasion of 'Makar Sankranti'.

Devotees abandoned masks and social distancing was nowhere to be seen as people rubbed shoulders with each other to take the holy dip and offer prayers.

Magh Mela, the 47-day annual religious fair began officially on Friday morning -- the first official bathing festival of Makar Sankranti on the banks of Sangam.

Pilgrims, saints and seers began to arrive for the occasion in large numbers on the eve of Makar Sankranti from Thursday and the fear of the third Corona wave was nowhere to be seen.

Officials had a tough time in controlling crowds and ensuring implementation of Covid protocols.

Mela official Shesh Mani Pandey said that efforts were continuously being made to prevent crowding either in the rivers or on the banks.

"Ten main bathing ghats have been set up for the pilgrims this time around. These would be stretching from Nagvasuki to Quila Ghat near Sangam in order to divert devotees to avoid overcrowding at one place," he said.

Officials expect around five lakh pilgrims to take the holy dip on Friday.

There are 13 police stations and 38 police outposts in various sectors of the mela area. Apart from these, there are 13 fire stations and the entire mela area is being watched from 13 watch towers. CCTV cameras have been installed in these towers.

Entry of heavy vehicles has been restricted for January 14-15. Besides, entry of two and four wheelers will also be restricted inside the mela area on the major bathing days.

However, the increased level of water in river Ganga is one area of concern for the authorities. The level of water, which used to remain around 74-75 meters, is 77 meters this year around because of which the strong currents are eroding its bank at few points, even as authorities are doing their best in checking it.

--IANS
amita/svn