15 Jan 2013

Millions of Hindus bathe in Ganges in religious festival

10:21 am on 15 January 2013

Millions of people have been bathing at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers at Allahabad in India on the opening day of the vast Kumbh Mela festival.

Hindus believe a festival dip at Sangam - where the rivers meet - will cleanse sins and help bring salvation.

Officials estimated eight million people took to the waters on Monday and expect more than 100 million to attend the 55-day festival.

The event, every 12 years, is billed as the biggest gathering on Earth, the BBC reports

The first day of the event was held under tight security with more than 30,000 police deployed at the grounds in Allahabad.

Official teams managed crowds on the river bank all day and, as soon as pilgrims finished bathing, they were encouraged to move away and make space for others.

The sadhu - ascetics or holy men - are the biggest crowd pullers, but away from all the media attention were millions of ordinary Hindus, mostly from rural areas, who queued patiently for hours to bathe in the holy waters.