Bhopal, April 16: Imagine this scene: Narendra Modi takes a dip and, hey presto, who pops up? Richard Gere.
Such a possibility is remote but not technically impossible if you happen to be standing on the banks of the Kshipra in Ujjain sometime between April 22 and May 21 next year.
That's when the holy Madhya Pradesh city will celebrate Simhasth Kumbh mela, the once-in-12-years gathering of the devout who take dips in the river as part of a ceremonial bathing festival. Prime Minister Modi is among those who will be invited.
Hollywood actor Gere might also be there, given the fascination for the Kumbh mela among celebrities. Gere, Madonna and Sharon Stone have all been seen at the Kumbh in the past.
In 2001, some Hollywood actors were spotted in Allahabad, accompanied by personal priests.
Sources said professional agencies would be hired to approach agents of these stars and others, like Pierce Brosnan and Demi Moore, to ensure their presence in Ujjain. It's, however, too early to say if Gere will take a dip.
Asked if his government was focusing on celebrities, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said invitations were being sent to "all" for the bathing festival at a time the planet Jupiter is in the zodiac sign Leo, or Simha rashi in Indian astrology. "We are inviting all. We are aware that there is huge interest in (the mela) across the world, so we are making special efforts to make everyone comfortable."
About Modi, Chouhan said: "I will be personally inviting him for Simhasth. Perhaps, he will come during one of the five auspicious dates (between April 22 and May 21, 2016) when ceremonial baths are conducted."
The 56-year-old BJP leader, who has a master's degree in philosophy, explained the legend behind the Kumbh mela.
According to the Puranas, Chouhan said, the churning of the ocean had yielded, among other things, a jar (kumbha) full of nectar ( amrita). "The gods did not want to share it with the demons.... During the struggle for its possession, a few drops of the nectar dropped in four places, corresponding with Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Nashik, on the earth. The drops were received by the holy rivers at these places. The struggle for the possession of the nectar-jar lasted 12 days in heaven, the equivalent time being 12 years on earth."
Chouhan said he had already extended invitations to 106 persons, mostly spiritual leaders. "Traditionally, the Kumbh also means meeting and deliberations among spiritual leaders who are concerned about human well being, both in the materialistic and spiritual sense. I, having a philosophical bent of mind, want to provide a grand platform."
Chouhan said the focus would be on the fundamental unity of faiths.