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