Kumbh Mela major pilgrimage and festival in Hinduism, the largest religious festival in the world, a gathering of humanity so mammoth it can be seen from outer space, began in India at Allahabad despite the coronavirus pandemic. One million pilgrims were expected to attend on Thursday. Kumbh Mela takes place over a number of weeks and the pilgrims believe that submerging in the Gange river will help absolve them of their sins. Ordinarily tens of millions of Indians gather over the course of the festival. “The pandemic is a bit of a worry, but we are taking all precautions,” one organizer declared. India has so far had over 10.5 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The biggest test they face will be on 4 February when 30 million are expected to attend for the most auspicious bathing day.This year’s festival will continue until April.
The festival is traditionally credited to the 8th-century Hindu philosopher and saint Adi Shankara, as a part of his efforts to start major Hindu gatherings for philosophical discussions and debates along with Hindu monasteries. The earliest mention of Prayag and the bathing pilgrimage is found in Rigveda Pariśiṣṭa (supplement to the Rigveda). The budget for the festival is about $400m. Just to understand dimensions, 122,000 toilets were needed. In fact, as numbers, the combined populations of Britain and Spain are expected to visit. More than 30,000 police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed to deal with traffic and security, using footage from 1,000 CCTV cameras.