Millions Gather for Hindu Festival

Date 2001/1/25 22:49:02 | Topic: Hindu Press International


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ALLAHABAD, INDIA, January 24, 2001: The pilgrims had come to share in the spiritual experience of a lifetime: a mass ritual bath on the peak holy day of perhaps the largest religious gathering in history -- the Maha Kumbh Mela, a 41-day festival. This one is considered the most sacred in 144 years because of a unique planetary alignment. More than 25 million Hindu devotees were reported to have gathered here today, and by the time the festival ends on Feb. 21, a total of 70 million pilgrims - of the 850 million or so Hindus in India are expected to have taken the plunge, which they believe cleanses their souls of sin. "What I feel right now is just bliss," said Vivek Ananda Shastri, 28, a teacher from Bombay, as he emerged from the frigid waters. "Daily life tires the soul as well as the body. This one bath is like a new birth for my soul." The festival has been a major logistical feat for police and civilian authorities. More than 25,000 police have been stationed here to control the crowds with security tightened to avoid any untoward incident. See also www.deccanherald.com/ deccanherald/jan25/ mel.htm







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