Millions of Hindus bathe in Ganges to cleanse sins
ALLAHABAD, India (AP) — Led by heads of monasteries arriving on chariots and ash-smeared naked ascetics, millions of devout Hindus plunged into the frigid waters of the holy Ganges River in India on Sunday in a ritual that they believe will wash away their sins.
Sunday was the third of six auspicious bathing days during the Kumbh Mela, or Pitcher Festival, which lasts 55 days and is one of the world's largest religious gatherings.
By the end of the day, as many as 30 million devotees were expected to have taken a dip at the Sangam, the confluence of three rivers — the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, at the edge of Allahabad in northern India.
The auspicious bathing days are decided by the alignment of stars, and devout Hindus believe a dip in the sacred river on one of these days will wash away their sins and free them from the cycle of death and rebirth.
The first to bathe Sunday were the heads of different Hindu monasteries who reached the bathing areas, called ghats, accompanied by marching bands. Some arrived on silver chariots and others were carried on palanquins by their followers.
They were followed by the Naga sadhus — ascetics with ash rubbed all over their bodies, wearing only marigold garlands.
Over the years, modernity has begun to mingle with the centuries-old tradition of the Kumbh Mela, with many of the ascetics and religious heads flaunting expensive laptop computers and photography equipment.