The Prayag (Allahabad) Kumbh Mela is the largest and holiest of all melas and is believed to be the most auspicious. On important bathing dates, millions of pilgrims take bath on the banks of the holy Sangam (confluence). The Purna (complete) Kumbh or Maha Kumbh, the biggest and the most auspicious fair, which falls once every 12 years, is always held in Allahabad. The main bathing day is known as 'Shahi Snans' or 'Royal Bathing Days'. On the main bathing dates there will be a vivid, magnificent Procession of radiant saints on chariots and elephants at sunrise. As the saints pass by, they impart blessings of divine grace to all the people. Then the glorious saints take their dip in the holy Sangam (confluence). This takes place according to tradition, each group proceeding to the river and then bathing in a particular sequence. After all these groups have bathed, then all other people will take their turn to march to the Ganges for their bath.
Around 500 sadhus were initiated this year at Kumbha Mela in Allahabad. In the late afternoon half a dozen of barber shaved their heads. The monks sat by patiently as this went on, occasionally raising their hands and shouting "HAR HAR MAHADEV!" of "OM NAMAH SHIVAYA!" Shortly the procession to the ghat (steps at river banks) began, with hundreds of thousands of devotees lining the road. Every time the sadhus would shout "OM NAMAH SHIVAYA!", the crowd would shout the words back with louder devotion.
Once at ghats, the two hour long initiation is conducted by head Pandit or head priest and several other senior priests, whose privilege it was to conduct the initiation of sadhus. As the ceremony went on, all the 500 or so sadhus would perform the same action at the same time, the offering of incense and flowers; bathing in river etc. The ceremony concluded with the donning of new loincloths and sacred thread.
Allahabad, India. (Jan/Feb 2013)