Monday, January 14, 2013

World's largest gathering: India's Kumbh Mela festival may draw 305million

Millions of people sprint naked into the river to bath in record numbers

Kumbh Mela festival is celebrated every 12 years, and currently billed as the biggest gathering on Earth. At least more than 100 million people are expected to attend the 55-day festival.

Hindus believe bathing at the Allahabad river will cleanse sins and help bring salvation.

"I have washed off my sins," Mandita Panna, a resident of Nepal and another early bather, said. It is estimated that more than 10 million pilgrims are set to do so by the end of the day.

In 2001, more than 40 million people gathered on the main bathing day of the festival, breaking a record for the biggest human gathering.The festival formally started at dawn on Monday. All roads leading to the Kumbh Mela grounds are packed with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

Police estimated that by the late afternoon about 7.5 million people had bathed.

The Kumbh Mela has its origins in Hindu mythology - many believe that when gods and demons fought over a pitcher of nectar, a few drops fell in the cities of Allahabad, Nasik, Ujjain and Haridwar - the four places where the Kumbh festival has been held for centuries.

There are six particularly auspicious days to bathe - the biggest bathing day will be on 10 February when approximately 305 million people are expected to take to the waters.


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