Nearly 5 million pilgrims, including saints of various sects, and tourists participated in the ongoing Maha Kumbh Mela on Friday on the occasion of Mahashivratri, mela authorities said.
Anand Vardhan, officer in charge of the Mela, while giving the figure of 5.5 million, clarified that all the people did not converge at Haridwar, but were spread across four districts of Uttarakhand.
Hundreds of Naga sadhus and other ascetics bathed in the Ganga river on the first Shahi Snan held on the occasion of Mahashivratri.
Of the seven Akhadas that were to participate in the Shahi Snan, the Juna Akhada was the first to undertake the royal bath and was followed by the Agni and the Avahan Akhadas.
Juna Akhada, regarded as the most significant, arrived in a long procession that included the largest batch of Naga sadhus, who literally raced on the sandy banks to plunge themselves into the waters.
A small group of foreigners, including men and women of varied age-groups, were also members of the Juna Akhada and they too participated in the royal bath in Uttarakhand.
The Shai Snan went on till 5.30 p.m., after which other devotees were allowed to take a dip in the river.
A number of ministers and politicians too bathed on the occasion.
Prominent among them were Arunanchal Pradesh Home Minister Tako Dabi, Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, Assam`s former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta.