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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 January 2007, 17:54 GMT
In pictures: Pilgrims gather for Indian Mela

A faithful prays after taking a dip at the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Allahabad

Some 60 million Hindus are expected to take part in the Ardh Kumbh Mela festival which has got under way in Allahabad in northern India.

A group of Sadhus arrive for the Mela

The pilgrims braved the early-morning cold to arrive at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers in a bid to wash away their sins.

Hindu devotees

The main period of bathing is on six auspicious days, depending on the alignment of stars.

A Naga Sadhu, or Hindu holy man, waits for his food before the start of their procession toward Sangam in Allahabad

On the first of these days, 3 January, nearly 10 million people, led by ash-smeared and naked holy men, are expected to take a dip.

A woman pours milk into the river as part of a Hindu ritual at the festival

One of the pilgrims performs a ritual by pouring milk in the river after taking a dip despite cold winds and fog.

An Indian Sadhu, Hindu holy man, sports a 'tilak' on his forehead with the letters 2007 to mark New Year in Allahabad

The Hindu faithful believe that bathing during the festival not only washes away their sins, but also ends the process of reincarnation.

A Naga Sadhu, or Hindu holy man, smokes tobacco during a procession towards Sangam in Allahabad

Although the Ardh Kumbh Mela is a "half-size" version of the better-known Kumbh Mela, a huge logistical operation is still required.

A Naga Sadhu, or a Hindu holy man, takes a picture of his colleagues as they wait for the food before a procession toward Sangam in Allahabad

Logistics to provide food, water and shelter to the milling crowds are key worries for officials throughout the Ardh Kumbh Mela, which takes place every 12 years.

Camp at the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Allahabad

Some 50,000 tents and 25,000 makeshift toilets cover an 80 sq-km (30 sq-mile) area on the banks of the Ganges.

A Sadhu or Hindu holy man, right, prays, as two others dry their clothes after having a swim at the Mela site

However, some devotees have complained about the lack of proper sanitary facilities.






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