Kumbh Mela

It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites.

[Mark Twain]

The Kumbh Mela is the biggest gathering of people in the history of humanity — although few in the West have ever heard of it. More than 70 million pilgrims attend this extraordinary spiritual festival, which has been held every 12 years near Allahabad, India, for over two millennia. A vast tent city is established to accommodate the masses, and many of India’s greatest gurus and spiritual leaders set up camp to give discourses to their devotees. On certain auspicious days everyone takes a holy dip at the confluence of two actual rivers – the Ganges and Yamuna – and a mythical river, the Saraswati. On the main bathing day, more than 25 million people bathe in the sacred waters. This single act of faith is believed to cleanse the sins of a thousand lifetimes and secure release from the endless cycle of rebirth — literally a short cut to the state of purest bliss… nirvana.

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