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Millions converge on Ganges for world's largest (and still growing) religious festival

Kevin Frayer / AP

Indian Hindu holy men, or Sadhus, celebrate in the water at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, on Jan. 14.

Reuters reports: Upwards of a million elated Hindu holy men and pilgrims took a bracing plunge in India's sacred Ganges river to wash away lifetimes of sins on Monday, in a raucous start to an ever-growing religious gathering that is already the world's largest.


Once every 12 years, tens of millions of pilgrims stream to the small northern city of Allahabad from across India for the Maha Kumbh Mela, or Grand Pitcher Festival, at the point where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet with a third, mythical river.

Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images

Hindu devotees bathe in the waters of the holy Ganges river during the auspicious bathing day of Makar Sankranti of the Maha Kumbh Mela on Jan. 14.

Officials believe that over the next two months as many as 100 million people will pass through the temporary city that covers an area larger than Athens on a wide sandy river bank. That would make it larger even than previous festivals.

That the ancient festival grows in size each time it is held partly reflects India's expanding population, but is also seen as evidence that spiritual life is thriving alongside the new-found affluence of a growing middle class. Full Story

Kevin Frayer / AP

Indian Hindu holy men, or Sadhus, celebrate in the water at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, on Jan. 14.

Anindito Mukherjee / EPA

An Indian elderly devotee offers his prayers.

Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images

Hindu devotees bathe in the waters of the Ganges.

Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images

An India holy man, or sadhu, bathes with his devotees in the waters of the Ganges.

Rajesh Kumar Singh / AP

Hindu devotees take a dip at Sangam, the confluence of three rivers.

The Maha Kumbh Mela, has started in India. Millions of Hindu pilgrims are bathing in spot where according to Hindu scripture the waters of three rivers the Ganges, Yamuna and a mythical river meet. When people bath, the spiritual benefits are said to multiply. Around 100 million people are expected to attend the spectacular 55 day event. ITV's Geraint Vincent Reports.

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