Before the beginning of the Kumbh Mela, the various Akharas enter the city in a ceremonial procession known as peshwai, sometimes also called praveshai. The peshwai is an occasion for residents of the city and tirthayatris (visiting pilgrims) to welcome the Akhara sadhus to the Kumbh Mela. Sadhus who usually eat food only once a day, traditionally eat khichdi (cooked rice and lentils) before the peshwai procession. The peshwai is a royal procession where the sadhus travel on horses and elephants, with bands playing music. The Mahamandaleshvars or Shri Mahantas of the akharas are seated on vehicles converted into chariots and the Naga sadhus display unimaginable yogic feats and martial skills with sticks, swords and spears. The residents of the city and the tirthayatris packed along the sides in lakhs, cheer them, while some accompany them in the procession.
Shortly after the peshwai, the dharma-dhvaja (“flag of dharma; dharma – Cosmic law”) is hoisted by the Akharas. The raising of the flag marks the ceremonial beginning of the Kumbh Mela. The flag is lowered when the Mela ends. The flag raised at Nashik in 2015 was made of five metals (pancha-dhatu) and had engravings of Guru (Jupiter), Surya (the Sun), Chandra (the Moon), Godavari, a crocodile (believed to be the mount of Goddess Godavari), all the eight directions, twelve zodiacs, and the svastika (sacred Hindu symbol for protection). The flag was hoisted at a height of 31 feet from the ground.
Grand Peshwai at Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, 2013