At least one crore devotees are expected to converge on the twin pilgrim centres of Nashik and Trimbakeshwar on Saturday for the first ‘shahi snan’ of the Kumbh Mela.
At least two lakh sadhus and thousands of mahants belonging to the Digambar, Nirmohi and Nirvani akharas of Vaishnav sect will be the first to take the ‘shahi snan’ in Nasik. The ascetics of the Shavia sect spread over ten Akhadaas will take their dip at Trimbakeshwar, 30 kms from Nasik.
Deependra Singh Khushwah, the collector of Nashik, said that the administration expected a footfall of at least 80 lakh on Saturday. A footfall of over 25 lakh is expected in Trimbakeshwar.
However according to civic authorities of Nasik, the crowd may be lesser on Saturday as Rakshabandhan and Janmashtami are on the same day. “Technology and communication has improved drastically over the years. So more people will make it here, than in 2003. But the number will be lesser than on other ‘shahi snan’ days, this Kumbh Mela,” said Nashik municipal commissioner Dr Praveen Gedam.
The administration is expecting an overall footfall of 10 million this year. The footfall recorded in 2003 was six million.
Apart from the 25 to 30 original ghats, the civic administrations have created eight new ghats at Nasik and three at Trimbakeshwar.
To avoid overcrowding, the length of the ghats has been increased in Nasik. “People coming from different parts will be diverted to different ghats to avoid overcrowding. This will be done via colour coding which will be applicable during parwani days,” said Gedam S Jagannathan, commissioner of police, Nasik city. A notification was issued on August 27, listing the routes to be taken by the various Akharas for the royal procession, the timings of the ‘shahi snan’ by mahants and sadhus, and the sequence of processions by the various akharas at Nashik and Trimbakeshwar.
According to the notification, the royal procession will begin from Tapovan’s Laxminarayan temple at 6 am and will be led by the Nirvani Akhara. After the bath, the mahants and sadhus will return to their camp at Sadhugram through a separate route and the ghats will be thrown open to the public.
Trimbakeshwar has a ‘sadhu gram’ spread across 15 acres. At Nasik, the ‘sadhu gram’ is spread across 283 acres, housing around 1.38 lakh sadhus.
“Arrangements have been made for heavy deployment of police force, which will consist of top officials, the Rapid Action Force (RAF), the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) and bomb detection and disposal squads,” said Sanjay Mohite, superintendent of Police, Nasik rural.
“The Nashik division of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) will provide 3,000 buses at both Nasik and Trimbakeshwar to ply the devotees from all the outer parking areas to the inner parking points, non-stop, throughout the day,” said Mohite.
“Most of the roads leading to the Godavari river in the 3.5 km radius of the ghats will be closed and made ‘no vehicle zones’. Some crossover points have been identified for the convenience of local residents,” said an official from the District Information Office (DIO).
The 3300 field staff deployed have been geo-tagged for the first time. “This way we will be able to keep a tab on their location at all times through my mobile phone,” added Gedam.
According to Gedam, the civic body has spent over Rs 22 crore on maintaining cleanliness and public hygiene.
“We already have 6000 toilets across Nasik city. In addition, we have installed 20,000 makeshift or temporary toilets at all important points across the city. We have even installed 3,000 dustbins at the ghats and other public places. We have appointed at least 3,300 field staff for the period of three months to keep the city clean. We have 50 tractors to carry the dustbins. Infact, all the dustbins have been marked and we know which staff will take which tractor and carry which dustbin, “ Gedam said.
With most of the important roads to be shut and turned into no vehicle zones, the district administration has also identified separate routes for its officials, workers and locals in case of emergencies or any untoward incidents, said Gedam.