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January 18, 2013

Maha Kumbh Mela

Held only once every twelve years, the cleansing ritual of the Maha Kumbh Mela sees up to a hundred million Hindu devotees symbolically bathe away their sins in the holy Ganges River. It is thought to be the largest gathering of humanity on earth. For 55 days devotees wade into the river to bathe, and join other religious observations on the banks of the Triveni Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers. Various sadhu and sadhvi (holy men and women) abound. The Maha Kumbh Mela began this year on January 14, with preparations starting weeks earlier. [Editors' note: The Big Picture will not publish on Monday, January 21, as we observe the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. We will return on January 23 with regular posts.] -- Lane Turner (37 photos total)

Hindu devotees bathe in the waters of the holy Ganges river during the auspicious bathing day of Makar Sankranti of the Maha Kumbh Mela on January 14, 2013 in Allahabad, India. The Maha Kumbh Mela, believed to be the largest religious gathering on earth, is held every 12 years on the banks of Sangam, the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. The Kumbh Mela alternates between the cities of Nasik, Allahabad, Ujjain and Haridwar every three years. The Maha Kumbh Mela celebrated at the holy site of Sangam in Allahabad, is the largest and holiest. Celebrated over 55 days, it is expected to attract over 100 million people. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Hindu devotees take a dip at Sangam as others cross a makeshift bridge on the first day of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad on January 14, 2013. Millions of Hindu pilgrims are expected to take part in the large religious congregation, where devotees wash themselves in the waters of the Ganges believing that it washes away their sins and ends the process of reincarnation. (Rajesh Kumar Singh/Associated Press) #

Tents of sadhus - holy men - are pitched on the banks of Sangam on January 7, 2013. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images) #

An Indian Hindu priest and a devotee take part during an evening prayer ritual known as Arti at Sangam on January 15, 2013. (Kevin Frayer/Associated Press) #

Hindu devotees perform rituals as they gather to take the holy dip at Sangam on January 14, 2013. (Stringer/EPA) #

Hindu devotees are seen at Sangam through a saree hung for drying after a holy dip on January 15, 2013. (Manish Swarup/Associated Press) #

Indian devotees bathe and offer prayers at the banks of Sangam on January 13, 2013. (Anindito Mukherjee/EPA) #

Hindu devotees bathe in the waters of Sangam on January 15, 2013. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

An Indian Hindu holy man, or Naga Sadhu, prays while taking a dip at Sangam on January 14, 2013. (Kevin Frayer/Associated Press) #

A man dressed as Kali, the Hindu goddess of power, performs with a burning camphor tablet on his tongue during a religious procession in Allahabad on January 6, 2013. (Jitendra Prakash/Reuters) #

Indian laborers pull a pontoon for a temporary bridge toward the Ganga river during preparations for Kumbh Mela at Sangam on November 21, 2012. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images) #

An Indian holy man walks along a pontoon bridge at the banks of Sangam on January 12, 2013. (Anindito Mukherjee/EPA) #

Indian yoga guru Baba Ramdev (top left on float) throws garlands to devotees during a procession ahead of Kumbh Mela in Allahabad on January 10, 2013. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images) #

Indian local band members play as holy men start their procession for bathing at the banks of Sangam on January 14, 2013. (Anindito Mukherjee/EPA) #

A man transports garlands of marigold flowers on a trishaw along the banks of the Ganges river ahead of Kumbh Mela in Allahabad on January 11, 2013. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #

Women stand on a road with flowers to welcome a religious procession of holy men during the Maha Kumbh Mela at the Sangam on January 11, 2013. (Manish Swarup/Associated Press) #

An Indian Hindu holy man bathes at Sangam on January 14, 2013. (Kevin Frayer/Associated Press) #

A holy man performs evening prayers on the bank of the Ganga River in Allahabad on January 15, 2013. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images) #

A holy man stands naked next to a priest during an evening prayer ceremony known as Arti at Sangam on January 15, 2013. (Kevin Frayer/Associated Press) #

A holy man walks into the water during an evening prayer ceremony known as Arti at Sangam on January 15, 2013. (Kevin Frayer/Associated Press) #

A man drinks as he prays at Sangam on January 14, 2013. (Kevin Frayer/Associated Press) #

Devotees bathe in the waters of the holy Ganges river during the auspicious bathing day of Makar Sankranti of the Maha Kumbh Mela on January 14, 2013 in Allahabad. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

Holy men celebrate naked in the water at Sangam on January 14, 2013. (Kevin Frayer/Associated Press) #

Holy men line up along the banks of Sangam on January 14, 2013. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

Holy men carry a child adorned with marigold flowers on their shoulders as they march towards Sangham on January 14, 2013. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images) #

Holy men keep warm by a fire and do yoga at their camp on the bank of Sangam on December 22, 2012, ahead of the Maha Kumbh Mela. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images) #

Devotees pray as they bathe in the Sangham on January 14, 2013. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images) #

A holy man - his face smeared with ash - smiles for a photograph at the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati in Allahabad on January 2, 2013, ahead of The Maha Kumbh Mela. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images) #

A holy man shouts while holding a sword after he and others like him ran into the waters of the Sangham on January 14, 2013. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images) #

Holy men dry their hair after a dip at Sangam on January 14, 2013. (Manish Swarup/Associated Press) #

Devotees enter the waters at the Sangham on January 13, 2013. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images) #

Devotees carry their possessions as they walk towards the banks of the holy Ganges river on January 13, 2013 in Allahabad. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

Workers fix a light post on the vast grounds receiving the millions of devotees that will congregate for the next couple of months to celebrate the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad on January 13, 2013. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images) #

Indian boatmen wait for passengers ahead of the Kumbh Mela at Sangam on January 12, 2013. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images) #

Hindu priests carry plates filled with offerings to distribute among devotees after evening prayers near the banks of river Ganges in Allahabad on January 12, 2013. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #

Devotees pray at Sangam on January 16, 2013. (Manish Swarup/Associated Press)#

A candle burns on an offering floating downstream at the Sangham on January 13, 2013. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images)#


 
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