Weeks ahead of the announcement of Lok Sabha elections, the Kumbh Mela area in Allahabad resembled sort of a political battlefield as flags bearing symbols similar to that of political parties were seen dotting the massive makeshift Kumbh Nagri.
The flags, hoisted by 'teerth purohits', help visitors in identifying priests at the Mela.
Some of the flags have photographs of an elephant, a cycle and a palm, closely resembling the election symbols of Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party and the Congress.
"The flags bear symbols of teerth purohits. In fact, this is their identity, be it a cycle, an elephant or a picture of palm," Narendra Giri, Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad president, told PTI.
"These symbols are hundreds of years old and have nothing to do with any political party," Giri stressed.
Nikhil Pandey, who has put up a camp at Sector-14 in the Kumbh Nagri, said, "The flag hoisted on our camp dates back to 1870s. This was told to us by our grandparents.
"Elephants were given to us as donation by zamindars of Rewa, Satna and Sidhi (districts in present-day Madhya Pradesh). Ilakadaars used to report to the king."
Ever since elephants were donated to his grandparents, it was placed on the priest flag, Pandey added.
Narrating the story behind putting the cycle on the flag, teerth purohit Om Prakash Gaur said, "My gurudev Bachha Lal Kallu Ram was donated a bicycle by the ruler of Satna about 100 years ago. Since then, it has become a part of the flag hoisted by us at our camps."
The camp of teerth purohit Ganga Charan Mishra at sectors 9 and 10, has a flag carrying the picture of a palm.
"This symbol has been associated with us for 70 years," Mishra said.
He said his father knew about the history how this symbol became their identity but he died.
The 2019 Kumbh Mela commenced on January 15 on Makar Sankranti and culminates on Mahashivratri on March 4.
According to Mela administration, more than 22 crore devotees have visited the place till now.