Visual Story

Glimpses from the world’s largest religious gathering

- SURESH RAJ NEUPANE, Kathmandu

Mar 2, 2019-

Millions of devotees thronged Prayagraj (Allahabad) in Uttar Pradesh to take a dip in the waters of the holy junction of the Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers for the Kumbh Mela, a massive gathering of millions of Hindus that takes place every 12 years.

The mela began on January 15, and 10 days later, on February 4, thousands of devotees had already reached Prayagraj on the auspicious occasion of Maghe Aaushi, also known as Mauni Amavasya. A shahi snan, or holy bath, is an essential part of the mela, where men, women, ascetics and tourists all immerse themselves ritually in the ‘sangam’ or meeting point of the three holy rivers. On Mauni Amavasya, which is the day for the third auspicious bath since the beginning of the Kumbh fair, a complete silence or ‘maun brat’ is observed by devotees and ascetics. The first special bath takes place on Makar Sankranti, on the opening day, while the second is held on Paush Purnima, on January 21.

This year, the Prayag Kumbh Mela attracted even more devotees than usual, as Prayagraj had been enlisted as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Alongside pilgrims and ascetics were hundreds of tourists, who had arrived in Prayag to observe this tsunami of people, which is unlike anything else. According to Dilip Kumar Trigunayat, an information officer, the Mela expects over 150 million pilgrims from January 15 to March 4—the largest gathering of people in the world.

This year, security has been tightened at Prayagraj for the Kumbh Mela. According to the Indian Home Ministry, fire stations, sub-fire stations, fire towers and control towers have been set up around the mela area. The entire area is under CCTV surveillance. The Uttar Pradesh government has allocated 42 billion Indian Rupees for the management of fair, which takes place over 3,200 hectares of land.

All photos by Suresh Neupane

Published: 02-03-2019 10:56

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