The Kumbh mela commenced in Prayagraj on Tuesday with the shahi snan or the holy dip undertaken by religious leaders, disciples and members of the 13 akharas (religious orders), PTI reported.

About 12 crore people are expected to visit the Kumbh mela to offer prayers and take a holy dip at the Sangam or the confluence of the three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. The pilgrimage lasts 50 days and will conclude on March 4. The confluence of the three rivers is considered holy by Hindus.

It was traditionally called the Ardh Kumbh as it takes every six years, but the Uttar Pradesh government led by Chief Minister Adityanath renamed it Kumbh. The Kumbh mela, which is organised every 12 years, will now be called Maha Kumbh.

Heavy security arrangements have been put in place with police and paramilitary forces deployed across the city, reported Hindustan Times. Senior Superintendent of Police (Kumbh) KP Singh said over 20,000 police, paramilitary and other personnel have been deployed at the site of the Kumbh Mela.

Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan on Monday launched a special weather service for pilgrims visiting the Kumbh Mela which will provide information on weather condition.

Devotees gathered at the Sangam or the confluence of three rivers in Prayagraj on Tuesday to take a holy dip during the Kumbh mela. Credit: IANS
Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, chief of the Kinnar Akhara, sings with her followers during on Monday. Credit: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
The makeshift bridge leading to the site of the Kumbh mela in Prayagraj. Credit: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters
Around 12 crore people are expected to visit the Kumbh mela between now and March 4 when it concludes. Credit: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
A Hindu pilgrim at the site of the Kumbh mela on Sunday. Credit: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP

President Ram Nath Kovind conveyed his greeting to pilgrims and from across the world. “The Kumbh is an important part of India’s spiritual and cultural heritage,” he tweeted on Tuesday. He also lauded the efforts of the Centre and Uttar Pradesh government for their efforts to organise the mela.