India's transgender community takes first Kumbh Mela dip

State authorities in Uttar Pradesh are expecting 12 million visitors to descend on Allahabad to bathe in holy rivers for the Kumbh Mela

The ritual of Shahi Snan dates back to centuries.

Considered an essential part of the Kumbh, "akharas" created at the venue nearly steal the show. 13 akharas include - 7 Shaiva, 3 Vaishnava, 2 Udasina and 1 Sikh. It is the largest human congregation in the world, with over 130 million pilgrims expected to participate in the festival with the belief that taking a dip in the holy water of Ganges River will pave the way for their salvation and would rid them of their sins.

The Uttar Pradesh government has allocated Rs 4,200 crore for the Kumbh Mela being held in the "sangam" city of Allahabad, which is over thrice the budget of the Maha Kumbh in 2013, making the mega pilgrimage perhaps the costliest ever.

A big tent city has emerged near the confluence of the rivers, where Hindus believe bathing during the Kumbh helps cleanse sins and brings salvation.

Some 30,000 police have been deployed to oversee crowds for the huge event and to prevent stampedes, which have marred Kumbh gatherings in the past.

A tent city with restaurants, roads and marketplaces has sprung up along the river, with pilgrims camped out across a sprawling 45-square kilometre zone specially earmarked for the Kumbh.

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A food hub has been set-up at the Kumbh Mela that will offer traditional food or cuisines from different states of India.

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 55-day long Kumbh Mela will end on 4 March.

The Uttar Pradesh government has heavily promoted Kumbh Mela 2019 that comes just days ahead of general elections.

The city's Mughal-era name Allahabad was recently changed to Prayagraj.

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