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Graphic shows factfile of the Kumbh Mela festival.


Hindus converge for largest ever human gathering

By Jordi Bou

January 15, 2019 - More than 120 million Hindu devotees are to visit the northern city of Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad) for the world’s largest religious festival, at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers.

The Kumbh Mela is a series of ritual baths by Hindu sadhus, or holy men, and other pilgrims at the confluence of three sacred rivers that dates back to at least medieval times. Pilgrims bathe in the river believing it cleanses them of their sins and ends their process of reincarnation.

The event, which UNESCO added to its list of intangible human heritage in 2017, rotates among four pilgrimage sites every three years on a date prescribed by astrology. This year's festival is of the type that occurs every six years. The BJP-led governments are spending about $650 million, more than triple the public money spent in 2013 on an event that was religiously far more important because it happens only every 12 years.

PUBLISHED: 15/01/2019; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Getty Images