Lakhs converge for holy dip in Ganga on Mahakumbh
More than a million pilgrims took a plunge in the sacred Ganges river to wash away lifetime of sins on Monday in Allahabad, in a great start to an ever-growing religious gathering that is already considered the world's largest.
Once every 12 years, tens of millions of pilgrims stream to Allahabad from across the country for the Mahakumbh at the point where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet with a third, mythical river.
Officials believe that over the next 55 days as many as 100 million people will pass through the city. Police chief Alok Sharma said 1.5 million people had gathered by 8am on Monday, with more on their way.
The ritual "Shahi Snan" was timed to match an auspicious planetary alignment, when believers say spiritual energy flows to earth.
The festival has its roots in a Hindu tradition that says God Vishnu wrested from demons a golden pot containing the nectar of immortality. In a 12-day fight for possession, four drops fell to earth, in the cities of Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujain and Nasik. Every three years a Kumbh Mela is held at one of these spots, with the festival at Allahabad the holiest of them all.
In Kerala Monday was marked by thousands of devotees gathering at Sabarimala shrine to worship Lord Ayyappa and watch the miracle Makara Vilakku appearing in the green mountains at an auspicious time. In Tamil Nadu, the day was celebrated as Poongal ( a mixture of rice and jiggery cooked in milk) to worship the Sun God and pray for a bountiful harvest. Gaiety marked Thai Pongal festivities in towns and villages.
- Asian Tribune -