01/14/2013, 00.00
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India, 10 million pilgrims expected for the beginning of the Kumbh Mela

For 55 days, more than 100 million Hindus will bathe in the holy waters of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and Sarawati. The Kumbh Mela falls every 12 years and is one of the most important Hindu festivals. Hygiene alarm: the high rate of pollution of waterways, the authorities have set up field hospitals and toilets.

Allahabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - More than 10 million pilgrims are expected today for the first day of the Kumbh Mela, the biggest festival of the Hindu religion, which takes place every 12 years. At dawn this morning, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had already immersed themselves in the cold waters of the Sangam, the confluence of the holy rivers Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati in the city of Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh). For 55 days, Hindus from all over India will arrive in the area, to celebrate the event expected to be "the largest gathering of humanity on Earth." For the next two months in fact, the Kumbh Mela is expected to attract more than 100 million people.

As per tradition, a long procession of sadhus (ascetics) half-naked and covered with coloured ashes, riding elephants, opened the festival.

To accommodate the pilgrims, the city of Allahabad has set up 14 field hospitals with 243 doctors available, and distributed more than 40 thousand mobile toilets across the territory. Due to the high level of pollution of the Ganges and the Yamuna, last week the authorities banned the factories that are located on the sides of rivers from discharging their waste waters. According to tradition, the immersion in the Sangam will wash away sins, and help the faithful to attain salvation. But many pilgrims who drink the water of the Ganges and bring whole bottles home, favor the spread of disease.

There is also a security alert, police have set up checkpoints on all the main roads of the city, with about 30 thousand agents allocated to control the smooth running of the festival.


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