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How Is Kumbha Mela Celebrated?

At the time calculated to be the most astrologically favorable, sadhus (holy men) lead millions of pilgrims to take a ritual bath in the sacred river at the pilgrimage site.

At the largest Maha (Great) Kumbha Mela festival, at Prayag, the ritual bath takes place at the sangam (confluence) of the Ganga (Ganges), Yamuna and Saraswati rivers, which is purported to offer the ultimate opportunity for spiritual purification. The Yamuna river, flowing from the west, is dark blue in color, whereas the Ganga river, flowing from the north, has a light yellowish color, making the exact location of the sangam very conspicuous. At this point the water is very shallow, only about fifty centimeters (twenty inches) deep.

The Maha Kumbha Mela is reputed to be the largest pilgrimage in the world. The festival lasts for 41 days in all. At the most recent Maha Kumbha Mela in 2001, some 70 million people visited the site. This staggering number is more than sixty times the population of the nearby city of Allahabad. On the most spiritually significant Amavasya day, when the new moon appeared, almost 30 million people were present in Prayag.

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