Millions take the holy dip at Maha Kumbh Mela
Millions of elated Hindu holy men and pilgrims took a bracing plunge in the sacred Ganges river to wash away lifetimes of sins, in a raucous start to an ever-growing religious gathering that is already the world's largest. Once every 12 years, tens of millions of pilgrims stream to Allahabad from across India for the Maha Kumbh Mela at the point where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet with a third, mythical river. That the ancient festival grows in size each time it is held partly reflects India's expanding population, but is also seen as evidence that spiritual life is thriving alongside the new-found affluence of a growing middle class. The ritual "Royal Bath" was timed to match an auspicious planetary alignment, when believers say spiritual energy flows to earth.
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