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Allahabad, Feb 5: Kumbh mela is not just about gods and godmen. It is also about going beyond the debate and change the society and its conventions. It is also about cleaning the dirt of traditions. In this direction, Thursday (Feb 7) would be a watermark day when liberated manual scavenger women, earlier regarded as untouchables, would join top priests in performing rituals at the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythological Saraswati at the Kumbh Mela.

The confluence of sants and sadhus, which had rallied against controversial godman Swamy Nithyananda, is going to welcome about 100 former scavenger women from Rajsthan's Alwar and Tonk districts and give them an opportunity of taking holy dip at the Sangam and perform puja at the ongoing Kumbh Mela on February 7.

It is an effort towards social upliftment, said Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of Sulabh International. He has initiated this social engineering and said the former scavengers would join hands with top Hindu priests in performing the rituals.

"Not only this, they will dine with some of the top Hindu religious leaders, including followers of various sects like the Naga sadhus, at the venue later this week. We are trying to interact them with some of the top most religious leaders at the Akharas of Hindu religious sects during their stay in the Kumbh grounds," Pathak said.

According to him the Sulabh International has played a significant role in liberating untouchable scavengers from the sub-human occupation of cleaning night soil – a practice nearly 5,000 years old. He said that so far Sulabh has converted 1.3 million bucket toilets into flush toilets and lakhs of scavengers have been freed from manual cleaning of human faeces and shackles of untouchability.

Pathak said after the human scavengers were relieved from this sub-human occupation, it was then a question of their livelihood, to rehabilitate and to bring them in the mainstream of the society.

Dalai Lama visit off

The much-anticipated visit of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to the ongoing Maha Kumbh has been finally called off despite security clearance given by the Uttar Pradesh government for his two-day visit.

Senior Superintendent of Police Mohit Agrawal said, "We have received information that the Dalai Lama is pre-occupied till February 15 and, if at all, he chooses to visit the Maha Kumbh it would be only after that".

February 15 happens to be the date on which Basant Panchmi festival is falling this year when the last "shahi snan" of "naga" ascetics takes place.

Although officially the Kumbh will end on March 10, traditionally most of the 'akharas' of sadhus start packing up after Basant Panchmi itself with only some 'kalpavasi' pilgrims staying back till Magh Poornima which falls on February 25.

Earlier, the Dalai Lama was scheduled to arrive at a "Lama Nagar" that has been built inside the camp of Vishwa Hindu Parishad at the Kumbh on February 4. But the visit was put off for want of security clearance in time.

However, the state government provided the clearance on February 3 and the Inspector General of Police, Allahabad zone, Alok Sharma, said the police would be able to make necessary security arrangements for his visit.

The organisers of his visit, the Mahabodhi Society of India, made a last-ditch effort to ensure his arrival at the Kumbh today but this could not materialise.

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