Thousands of devotees took the holy dip in the wee hours of Tuesday at Sangam on the occasion of Makar Sankranti marking the start of the Kumbh Mela.

A sea of Hindu faithful had started gathering on the banks of the Sangam – the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna rivers and the mystical Saraswati – in Prayagraj well before daybreak for the first Shahi Snan (royal bath).

Saints and devotees moved in elaborate processions amid chants of ‘Har Har Mahadev’ for the bath at the five-kilometre bathing ghat. Many of the processions had started moving towards the ghats soon after midnight.

Loud religious chantings as well as melodious singing of Bhajans reverberated through the by-lanes of the city for most of the night.

The Sanyasi akhara was the first of the about 13 akharas participating in the Shahi Snan today to begin the ceremonial bath. Other akharas include Bairagi and Udasin.

Each akhara has being allocated about 45 minutes by the Kumbh administration.

Naga sadhus were also among those who took the first Shahi Snan.

The saints and the devotees took the bath in spite of the extremely cold weather in the city where the mercury was below 9 degree Celsius before 8 am.

Heavy security cover was in place as many devotees took the pontoon bridges to reach the ghats that have been decked up ornately for this highly-significant religious ceremony.

The Shahi Snan is considered among the most significant components of the Kumbh Mela, and is supposed to begin at a certain hour.

The Kumbh Mela is held every six years, while the Maha Kumbh takes place every 12 years.

(With inputs from agencies.)