Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday offered prayers along with his wife at the Sangam in Praygraj, becoming the first president after Rajendra Prasad to visit a Kumbh Mela. The President also inaugurated the three-day 'Gandhian Resurgence Summit' at the Parmarth Niketan camp, where he said he was lucky to make the trip. "This is the first visit by a president to the Kumbh since the visit of then president Rajendra Prasad in 1953," Rashtrapati Bhavan's Twitter account posted later. The Kumbh is an important part of India's spiritual and cultural heritage, it quoted Kovind as saying.
Kovind and his wife Savita Kovind reached the Bamrauli airport on a special plane of the Indian Air Force around 9:30 am. They were welcomed by Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and several cabinet ministers, officials said.
Kovind said it was a happy coincidence that along with the Kumbh, the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi also falls this year.
The President and his wife participated in 'Ganga pujan' in the Sangam area along with the governor, chief minister, his deputy Keshva Prasad Maurya and Health Minister Sidharth Nath Singh among others.
The President was at the Sangam area for about half-an-hour. Sangam refers to the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati rivers.
President Kovind along with his family members came last year too during the 'Magh Mela'. This year’s Kumbh is costliest ever with the Uttar Pradesh government allocating Rs 4,200 crore for the Kumbh Mela. This year’s budget is over thrice the budget of the Maha Kumbh in 2013, making the mega pilgrimage perhaps the costliest ever.
"The UP government has allocated Rs 4,200 crore for 2019 Kumbh Mela. The previous state government had spent around Rs 1,300 crore for the Maha Kumbh, which was held in 2013," state Finance Minister Rajesh Agarwal told PTI. He said that apart from this, some other departments have also allocated funds for the mega event.
Agarwal said this time the Kumbh Mela area has been doubled as compared to the previous years. This year's Kumbh Mela is spread over an area of 3,200 hectare as compared to 1,600 hectare area in the previous melas.
The endeavour of the UP government has always been to enhance the facilities for the public and establishing facilities at the ground level has been a big task, the minister said. The Kumbh Mela (the festival of the sacred pitcher) is anchored in Hindu mythology. It is the largest public gathering and collective act of faith anywhere in the world.
Ardh Kumbh is held in every six years, while the Kumbh Mela comes after 12 years. The Yogi Adityanath government has renamed Ardh Kumbh as Kumbh and the Kumbh as Maha Kumbh.
The mela draws tens of millions of pilgrims over the course of approximately 48 days to bathe at the sacred confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati river. The congregation includes Ascetics, Saints, Sadhus, Sadhvis, Kalpvasis and pilgrims from all walks of life.
In all there are six auspicious bathing dates in this Kumbh - Makar Sankranti (January 15), Paush Poornima (January 21), Mauni Amawasya (February 4), Basant Panchami (February 10), Maghi Poornima (February 19) and Mahashivratri (March 4).