Record 30 million Hindus bathe in Ganges

2013-02-10 18:02

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Millions observe Maha Kumbh

2013-02-04 13:14

As part of the Maha Kumbh festival, over 100 million Hindu devotees are expected to bathe in the Ganges in Allahabad, India. VIEW

Allahabad - A record 30 million Hindus immersed themselves in the sacred waters of India's river Ganges on Sunday in a crammed but successful mass bathing on the most auspicious day of the world's largest festival.

Ash-smeared naked saints led the rituals at the Kumbh Mela in northern India before dawn, dashing into the holy water which is believed by Hindus to cleanse sins. Tens of millions followed them over the course of the day.

Top local official Devesh Chaturvedi, the divisional commissioner of the surrounding city of Allahabad, said a record number of pilgrims had plunged into the river without any major accidents or crowd problems.

"By afternoon over two crore (20 million) people had taken the holy dip and by evening the numbers crossed three crore (30 million)," he told a press conference.

Police had been stretched in controlling the vast crowds, he admitted, and one person had died for unknown reasons and another had been injured in a minor stampede.

Amid the crush, thousands of volunteers on duty and police urged pilgrims to take one short bath and then leave the waters to make space for the flow of humanity behind them which stretched for kilometres.

The Kumbh Mela, which began last month and ends in March, takes place every 12 years in the northern city of Allahabad. Smaller, similar events are held every three years in other locations around India.

This year's Mela is big even by previous standards, with astrologers saying a planetary alignment seen once every 147 years made it particularly auspicious for some pilgrims.

"This is a rare combination of planets which would bring in good times for some zodiac signs and adverse effect for others," said Amarpal Sharma, a local astrologer.

More than 7 000 policemen were deployed to oversee bathing on Sunday along with 30 000 volunteers to guard against stampedes which are a regular and often deadly feature of Indian religious festivals.
Read more on:    india  |  religion

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