Kumbh Mela, the largest human gathering is a manifestation of the deep-rooted religiosity in Indian culture. This 48 days long Hindu festival, celebrated four times over a course of 12 years at four locations, draws millions of pilgrims who come to bathe at the “sangam”, the confluence of the holy Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati. Devotees believe that a dip in the “sangam” during the festival absolves one of all past sins and brings moksha or eternal salvation. This year’s ongoing Kumbh Mela (Jan 14th- Mar 4th) in Prayagraj is expected to draw as many as 150 million visitors, including Bollywood stars, foreign celebrities and tourists. The big draw at this festival is the ash-smeared and dreadlocked sadhus or Hindu ascetics, many of whom live in the Himalayan caves. Faith and commerce intertwine at the Kumbh Mela where micro-entrepreneurs sell food, consumer goods and tent lodging to pilgrims. UNESCO recognizes the Kumbh Mela as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
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