The world’s largest, peaceful gathering of humanity, sees tens of millions of Hindu devotees gather to wash their sins away on the banks of the Gange River in India.
The Kumbh Mela is a major pilgrimage and religious festivals in Hinduism. The Festival’s dates are determined by Hindu astrology – a combination of zodiac positions of Jupiter, the Sun and the Moon. It is listed by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The religious festival has deep philosophical and spiritual significance for Hindus. It is celebrated in a cycle of approximately 12 years at four river-bank pilgrimage sites: the Prayag, Haridwar (Ganga), Nashik (Godavari) and Ujjain (Shipra). It is commonly believed that those who take a holy dip or bathe in the sacred water of these rivers during the Kumbh Mela Festival have their sins washed away and are eternally blessed by the divine.
The spectacle begins in earnest before dawn, with the first in a series of holy baths led by the iconic naga sadhus – holy men who made their way down to the river naked, their bodies covered in ash and perform sacred rituals.