For spectators, it was a cultural colossus; for participants, an experience in collective liberation. In 2001, millions of pilgrims and onlookers flooded Allahabad, in north India, to attend Kumbh Mela, the world's largest religious gathering. As the festival progressed, Hindus bathed at the confluence of three sacred rivers to purify themselves of sins accummulated over lifetimes. Take a closer look at this awe-inspiring event.

What Is Kumbh Mela?

  • Chart: What, When, and Why
  • Nectar of Immortality: The Hindu legend that started it all
  • Video: The Sites and Sounds of Kumbha Mela (Free RealPlayer required)
  • Q&A from PBS' Religion and Ethics and the Himalayan Institute

    Hindus Gather at the River

    Virtual Cleansing
    How to bathe in a polluted river.

    Back to Nature: One Western Pilgrim's Experience
    Living in tents, bathing from buckets, eating simple food--and loving it.

    "An Extraordinary Spectacle of the Human Spirit"
    A correspondent in the BBC's Hindi Service describes plunging into a sea of humanity.

    Bathers Protest Being Photographed in the Nude
    Festival organizers call for photography ban and criticize media coverage of the event.

    The Great Tent Flap

    Hindu Holy Men Criticize Luxury Tents
    So where will the likes of Paul McCartney and Courtney Love sleep?

    "Five-Star Invasion"
    In an interview, the company responsible for the cottage tents discusses "spiritual tourism."

    More on Kumbha Mela

    Daily Updates from Rediff.com

    In the Stars
    A map of the sky over Allahabad charts the auspicious celestial events of Jan. 24th, 2001.

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