Kumbh Mela: The Largest Gathering on Earth

Tens of millions of Hindu pilgrims are now descending on Allahabad, India, joining an estimated 8 million already there for the Maha Kumbh Mela. Held every 12 years at one of four places in India, the Kumbh Mela lasts nearly two months and is considered to be an especially auspicious time to bathe in the holy river for purification from sin. In 2001, the last time the festival took place, more than 40 million people gathered in an area smaller than 20 sq km (7.7 sq mi). This year, the predicted number of visitors tops 100 million. Collected here are images from the preparation and first days of the Maha Kumbh Mela, with possibly more to come in the next few weeks.

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