The 'mahakumbh' is expected to generate a business of Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 crore (Rs 20-30 billion) with Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank claiming that at least four crore people had already visited Haridwar since the mela began on January 14. The curtain for the kumbh mela rings down on April 28 with the last royal bath of seers and sadhus on Thursday.
But with the kumbh mela at its peak, it is a roaring business now at Haridwar. From a small shop to a big hotel, all are raking in the moolah thus burning a deep hole in the pockets of pilgrims, who are gathering in millions to take the last holy bath.
And the prices of all food items have virtually hit the upper circuit. A cup of tea is being now sold at Rs 10 at small kiosks. The poor man's delight puri-bhaji is being sold at Rs 50. Prices of cold drinks and other brewages like lassi have also gone up.
Rickshaw-pullers are the most-sought after since public transport system has been suspended.
Riding a rickshaw is now costing nothing less than Rs 200.
Hotliers are the happiest ones. Hotel room accommodations have also reached Rs 10,000 per day, which usually are at Rs 1000 during lean season near Har-Ki-Pauri, the main bathing ghat. Special packages are also being offered to pilgrims for a stay of five days.
Even the priests have hiked their rates for performing religious rituals at Har-Ki-Pauri.
However, the kumbh mela administration is also keeping a close vigil and has slapped fines on scores of hotels for fleecing the pilgrims. "We are taking strict action and not sparing any one," said a kumbh mela official.
According to astrologers, the unique celestial combination of stars is being seen after a long period this time. This may be the one big reason for the pilgrims to come rushing to Haridwar to wash their sins.