Hindu hermits of the Naga clan marched in procession to the Ganges river for their first 'Shahi Snan' (royal bath) during the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad on Monday.
Naked, smeared in ash and with matted hair tied in dreadlocks, the hermits, devotees of Lord Shiva, are accorded the privilege of exclusive access to the bathing area on the occasion of 'Makar Sankranti'. They carry tridents, the symbols of Lord Shiva, to the city of the Kumbh Mela, though the weapons are treated as sacred and are not brought to the site of the ritual baths.
The Naga Sadhus symbolize a complete renunciation of worldly pleasures, and live away from the mainstream of Indian life, emerging only at the time of the Kumbh Mela.
In the early hours of Monday, many other devotees expressed their reverence and sought expiation for their sins as they immersed themselves in the holy waters, and performed 'aarti', rituals with oil lamps.
Apart from the Naga Sadhus, devotees and ascetics of other clans also marched to the riverbanks carrying banners and flags.
Hundreds of thousands of people from across the country as well as abroad take part in a religious gathering at the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers, during the Maha Kumbh in Allahabad, which is often described as the 'greatest show on earth'.
The Kumbh Mela will go on for the next two months and will conclude on Maha Shivaratri on March 10. (ANI)