120 million people attend the planet's largest pilgrimage
Kumbh Mela is the largest spiritual festival in the world. At the festival, millions of Hindu devotees will soak themselves at the confluence of sacred rivers in India. The festival officially started on the morning of January 15 at local time. According to statistics, at least 15 million people attended the first day of the festival. It is expected that the number of participants in the 49 days of Kumbh Mela is up to 120 million.
According to Hindu conception, the junction of the Ganges River, the Yamuna River, and the Indian Sarasvati intersection is considered the most sacred place. Hindu believers believe that bathing at Sangnam - the name of the river junction will cleanse their mistakes and bring peace of mind.
Kumbh Mela has been held for centuries in Allahabad but only became a festival that gathered the largest number of participants in the world two decades ago. According to estimates, in addition to Hindu believers, the number of foreign visitors to India during this time to soak in the sacred river is up to 1 million people.
The first ritual of the world's largest spiritual festival began with the parade of Sadhus - ascetic monks who are naked or ashed all over their bodies and jumped into the water, chanted words praising saints in Hindu religion and continued to dance on the river bank. A day earlier, tens of thousands of pilgrims soaked themselves in water and lit clay lamps and dropped them with flowers into the Ganges River.
For nearly 50 days Kumbh Mela has taken place, the Naga Rite is considered the most spectacular part with the colorful procession and a large number of participants. In addition to the brass and drum bands to create a lively atmosphere, the procession also uses elephants, camels, and horses. The heads of religious sects sit in the highest position and throw thousands of marigold flowers to thousands of followers below.
In order to serve the festival, a large number of makeshift tents are erected in the area stretching 32 km along with hundreds of kilometers of improved and newly built roads. Hospitals, banks, fire services are also in a ready state along with 120,000 public toilets.
It is estimated that hundreds of new trains are operated to transport the constant flow of people to Allahabad. 30,000 military police and soldiers were also assigned to guard and order security and monitor the crowd during the long period of Kumbh Mela.
2013 was the year marking the first time women attending the festival to bathe on a river junction. In this year's festival, hundreds of transgender people are allowed to bathe in sacred river water with others.
2019 was also the first time Kumbh Mela was held in the northern city of Allahabad after the city changed its old name Prayagraj. Although the allowed time to bathe in the sacred river only lasts for a few short minutes, millions of people still do not hesitate to go far to take a dip. “The water here helps rebuild everything. Bathing in Kumbh Mela can heal your illness and eliminate the obstacles you are having ”- one person attending the festival expressed.
By: Scarlet Johnson