The World's Biggest Pop-Up City

As many as 100 million people could gather for Kumbh Mela in the northern Indian city of Allahabad.

Image
Reuters

The largest human gathering in the world is going on right now. Upwards of a million pilgrims have already gathered where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers allegedly meet a third, mythical river. The 48-day festival of Kumbh Mela takes place every twelve years; officials predict this will be the largest ever.

Officials say as many as 100 million people may pass through the temporary city, which covers an area about the size of Athens. Visitors take turns dashing into the river to wash away karmic sins. As the Huffington Post reports:

The ritual "Royal Bath" was timed to match an auspicious planetary alignment, when believers say spiritual energy flows to earth.

"I wash away all my sins, from this life and before," said wandering ascetic Swami Shankranand Saraswati, 77, shivering naked in the cold. He said he gave up a career as a senior civil servant 40 years ago to become a holy man, travelled on foot and for decades ate only nuts and fruit.

Below, photos from Reuters:

A policeman mounted on his horse maintains order during the first "Shahi Snan" (grand bath) at the ongoing "Kumbh Mela", or Pitcher Festival, in the northern Indian city of Allahabad. 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. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)



Hindu devotees take a holy dip during the first "Shahi Snan" (grand bath) at the ongoing "Kumbh Mela", or Pitcher Festival, in the northern Indian city of Allahabad. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)



Hindu devotees cross pontoon bridges spanning river Ganges. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)



Men stand in waters of Ganges river to maintain order during first "Shahi Snan. (Ahmad Masood

/Reuters)


Naga Sadhus run to take dip during first "Shahi Snan." (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)

About the Author

  • Amanda Erickson is a former senior associate editor at CityLab.