How long is yamuna

Millions of pilgrims bathe in the Ganges at the Kumbh Mela festival

With religious chants and often covered with ashes, the believers in Prayagraj, the earlier Allahabad, took a bath at the confluence of the two rivers Ganges and Yamuna, which according to their beliefs freed them from sins. A total of 30 million people are expected to attend the ritual mass bath. On the new moon day, the most important event of the multi-week pilgrimage festival Kumbh Mela, bathing in the holy river Ganges is considered to be particularly lucky.

More than 30,000 police officers are deployed to secure the major event. Among other things, they are supposed to steer the onslaught of the crowds on the ghats, the steep stairs that lead to the bank of the river, in a controlled manner. There are always mass panics.

Up to 140 million visitors

The Hindu Kumbh Mela is the largest religious event in the world. This year it runs from January 15th to March 4th. A total of up to 140 million visitors is expected. The local authorities have made extensive arrangements to accommodate the numerous believers. A tent city three times the size of Manhattan was set up for the many pilgrims. In addition, access roads were expanded and a new airport was built to cope with the mass onslaught. At the Mela 2013, more than 40 people were killed in a mass panic at the city's train station.

To prevent millions of believers from bathing in polluted water that is hazardous to health, the authorities have spent the equivalent of around 35 million euros to block sewers in the Ganges and the Yamuna or to clear water from such canals in advance. In addition, boats with special equipment scooped waste from the river water.

Hindus at the second "Shahi Snan" (great bath) in Prayagraj

The religious festival goes back to a battle between gods and demons in Hindu mythology. According to legend, Garuda, the sacred bird of the god Vishnu, fell four drops of the nectar of immortality from a jug when he wanted to keep him safe from evil spirits. The drops are said to have fallen on the cities of Haridwar, Ujain, Nasik and Allahabad, where the Kumbh Mela takes place alternately.

The number of participants is increasing steadily

The festival in Allahabad, today's Prayagraj, was last celebrated in 2013. Not only do the Ganges and Yamuna converge there, but also, according to Hindu belief, the mythological Saraswati river. More and more people come to the Kumbh Mela because many Hindus from the growing middle class in India can now afford the pilgrimage.

These pilgrims prepare for the mass bath

At the Mela this time, many posters advertising Prime Minister Narendra Modi almost create a kind of pre-election mood. Modi and his Hindu nationalist party BJP will have to stand for new elections in May. A few months ago the regional government also renamed the city of Allahabad, in which the Mela takes place, to Prayagraj, because the old city name goes back to the Muslim rulers of the Mughal period and is not Indian enough.

kle / jj (epd, afp, dpae)