The Maha Kumbh Mela: Gods’ own nectar of immortality

Millions of Hindu pilgrims are taking part in the once-in-12-years Maha Kumbh Mela, the largest gathering of people on earth, at the Sangam in Allahabad.
  • Sadhus carry a child adorned with marigold flowers on their shoulders as they march towards the Sangam or the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati during the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. AFP
  • A devotee smeared with ash prays at the water’s edge before a holy dip. Hindus believe that by doing so, one is freed from the sins committed in this lifetime and also attains freedom from the cycle of birth and death and rebirth. AFP
  • A Naga sadhu comes up after a dip. Naga sadhus are a particular group of Shaivite saints who reside in the Himalayan Caves and come down only during the Kumbh Mela. AFP
  • Devotees cross the pontoon bridges spanning the river Ganges. The megacity that magically pops up at Allahabad during the Kumbh Mela is as large as New York, London and Paris combined. Reuters
  • Naga sadhus arrive to attend the first ‘Shahi Snan’ (grand bath). The festival got its name from the mythological “kumbh” or pitcher of nectar, over which gods and demons fought and which would give them immortality. Reuters
  • Devotees gather around a flame during an evening prayer. The crowd on the main days is large enough to be visible from space satellites. Some 25,000 tonnes of foodgrains are sent to feed the pilgrims. AP
  • About 700,000 tents are erected to house the visitors. A temporary super-specialty hospital, thirty-one police stations and thirty-six fire stations have been set up. AFP
  • A sadhu bathes with others like him at the Sangam. The last Maha Kumbh in 2001 saw 70 million people congregating in Prayag. The festival will conclude on Maha Shivratri on 10 March. AFP