• Friday, June 21, 2024


Kumbh Mela: World’s largest religious festival

A man waits for devotees inside his camp during Kumbh Mela. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

By: Keerthi Mohan

More than 20 million Hindu pilgrims ritually bathed in India’s holy rivers on the opening day of the Kumbh Mela, a gigantic festival billed as the world’s largest human gathering.

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Men take part in a religious procession towards the Sangam area (Photo: Sanjay Kanojia/ AFP/ Getty Images)

The spectacular seven-week festival began Tuesday in Allahabad, an ancient city that rises alongside the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

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Hindu devotees bathe during the second “Shahi Snan” (grand bath) of Kumbh Mela. (Photo: Allison Joyce/Getty Images)
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Devotees take a holy dip at Sangam during the auspicious bathing day of Makar Sankranti at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad (Photo: Sanjay Kanojia/ AFP/ Getty Images)

The meeting point of these rivers is considered among the holiest places in Hinduism and devotees believe bathing there during the Kumbh helps cleanse sins and brings salvation.

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Holy men leave after taking a dip during the first “Shahi Snan” (grand bath) at Kumbh Mela. (Photo: Reuters/Jitendra Prakash)

The Kumbh attracts astonishing numbers of visitors, outstripping the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca or any other large-scale gathering. Kumbh organisers say the last major gathering in Allahabad in 2013 drew 120 million people — nearly the population of Japan.

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Tents of sadhus are pitched on the banks of Sangam (Photo: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images)

A gigantic tent city has emerged near the banks of the hallowed rivers with a 45-square kilometre encampment set aside specially for pilgrims.

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Holy men put ash on themselves after taking a holy dip at Sangam (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

The Kumbh, which runs until March 4, was recognised as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2017.

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