They also took a dip in the holy Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, which would be forever etched in their memories.
About 3,000 PBD delegates arrived in Prayagraj in about 80 special AC Volvo buses amidst high security. The entire route from Varanasi to Prayagraj stretching to about 120 km was completely sanitised and provided foolproof security. Security of each bus was monitored by a SHO (Station House officer who is the head of an Indian police station) while a CO (Circle Officer who is the head of several police stations) was incharge of the security of 10 buses.
The delegates were directly driven to the Indraprastham Tent City. Here, arrangements of their refreshments were made.
Gen VK Singh, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, Siddharta Nath Singh, Health Minister of Uttar Pradesh and Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Tourism Minister of Uttar Pradesh extended a warm welcome to the PBD delegates and garlanded them on their arrival in the Kumbh city.
Welcoming the delegation, Gen. VK Singh said the motive for creating such a platform was to make India more inclusive. We have lined various programmes for the NRI visitors.
Singh even played the part of a tourist guide, using a microphone to brief the visiting delegation about the importance of Kumbh. “We welcome you at the Kumbh Mela from my heart. I wanted you to see how the government and the local administration is managing the crores of devotees who come to this place,” he said.
Rita Bahuguna Joshi also welcomed the PBD delegates. She said, “PBD provides people living outside India an opportunity to come and feel the essence of India. Their visit gives us happiness.
Laxmi Sharma, who lives in the USA, was particularly excited to participate in the Kumbh Mela which is the biggest conglomeration of people on Earth. She said, “I always harboured the dream of seeing the Kumbh Mela and thanks to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for giving us the opportunity to realise our dream. It is a unique experience to come to this place and be in communion with the spirituality pervading the place.
Most of the PBD delegates were seen capturing precious moments of this unique journey while others were clicking selfies. Some of the NRIs also clicked selfies with Gen VK Singh, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs and Siddharta Nath Singh, Health Minister of Uttar Pradesh who duly obliged them.
Women NRIs also interacted with Rita Bahuguna Joshi and shared their experiences about the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas Convention which took place for three days in Varanasi.
Earlier, various cultural programmes were performed at Indraprastham. Artists from different corners of India were brought to Prayagraj to welcome the NRIs.
Later, the PBD delegates were taken to the Sangam on motorboats. It is the meeting point of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna and people believe that taking dip at this holy place wash away their sins.
Chandra Dutt who had come all the way from Surinam was elated to take dip at the holy Sangam. He said, “Taking a dip at this holy place is a unique experience in itself. Though the water was cold, but I had a special spiritual feeling which cannot be explained in words.”
Later, the delegates were taken to visit the historic Akshyavat tree located in the precincts of Allahabad Fort. This tree has been opened for the public for the first time in this Kumbh Mela.
The cavalcade of NRIs were also taken to the Bade Hanuman temple where they offered prayers and sought blessings.
The visit has been organised by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and Uttar Pradesh government as part of this year’s PBD celebrations. The main convention at Varanasi concluded on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Indian Railways made arrangements for ferrying PBD delegates from Prayagraj to New Delhi where they will attend the Republic Day parade on January 26. Railways is running four ‘Pravasi Bharti’ special trains which departed from Allahabad station at different times.
Railways has converted all third-tier AC coaches of the special trains to second AC for providing more comfort to the delegates. They are being served special vegetarian foods in the train.
Talking exclusively to Connected to India, Amit Malviya, public relations officer of North Central Railway said, “We are plying four Pravasi Bharti special trains from Prayagraj to New Delhi. We are happy to serve the NRIs and the PBD delegates as they are the ambassadors of India in foreign countries. They should remember their visit to Kumbh Mela and encourage more people to come to India.”