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Monday, 8 January, 2001, 17:21 GMT
Pilgrimage to Maha Kumbh Mela
Crowds bathing at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers
Crowds bathing at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers
Millions of Hindus from around the world have been arriving in the northern Indian city of Allahabad to take part in the "Kumbh Mela" or Pitcher festival which takes place once every 12 years and is the most important spiritual event in the Hindu calender.


Bather taking the waters of the sacred river
Bather taking the waters of the sacred river

The festival approaches its climax-the holiest day for Hindus to converge on Allahabad and bathe in the River Ganges. One British couple-the Sharmas-describe their experiences of the event.

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Hindu holy men prepare for a holy dip in the River Ganges
Hindu holy men prepare for a holy dip in the River Ganges

Up to eight million Hindus take a purifying plunge in the icy Ganges in one of the high points of the great Kumbh Mela festival.

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Couple bathing in the River Ganges
Couple bathing in the River Ganges

The government estimates that up to 70 million people will be bathing in the holy waters over the next six weeks to cleanse themselves spiritually and to worship at the sacred site.

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Hindus bathing in the River Ganges
Hindus bathing in the River Ganges
Security is a key concern as the authorities try to make sure the event passes off smoothly.

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The Chudasama family having their last meal at home before flying to India
The Chudasama family having their last meal at home before flying to India
Thousands of Hindu families from Britain are travelling to India. The Chudasama family from Leicester will be among the millions of pilgrims going to India from around the world.

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Women in Hindu temple
Women in Hindu temple

Saroj Thapar also hopes to be at the festival which will be her seventh Kumbh Mela. She explains the appeal of the event.

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