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January 21, 2010
Kumbh Mela festival
HARIDWAR, India (AP) -- Hundreds of thousands of devotees bathed in the icy waters of the Ganges river last week as a monthslong Hindu festival expected to attract more than 10 million people kicked off in one of northern India's holiest cities. Men, women and children entered the fast-moving waters of the river in a holy ritual that is part of the Kumbh Mela, touted as the largest religious gathering in the world. The festival, which is celebrated every three years, rotates among four Indian cities. (23 images)

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A Hindu devotee performs a ritual at 'Sangam', the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna river during the Makar Sankranti festival in Allahabad, India, Thursday, Jan. 14. Hundreds of thousands of devout Hindus bathe at the confluence during the astronomically auspicious period of over 30 days to rid themselves of their sins and attain prosperity. Many Melas or fairs are held on Makar Sankranti the most famous being the Kumbh Mela, held every 12 years at one of four holy locations. AP / Rajesh Kumar Singh


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A Naga Sadhu Hindu holy man dries his clothes after taking a dip in the River Ganges, during the annual fair of Magh Mela in Allahabad, India, Wednesday, Jan. 13. AP / Rajesh Kumar Singh



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Indian Hindu priests perform evening prayers on the banks of the river Ganges on Makar Sankranti, one of the Kumbh Mela festival's main bathing days, in Haridwar on Jan. 14. AFP / Getty Images / Manan Vatsyayana



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A family offers prayers while taking a dip in the River Ganges on the first day of the Kumbh Mela, or the pitcher festival, in Haridwar, India, Thursday, Jan. 14. AP / Saurabh Das



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Hindu devotees bath in the River Ganges on the first day of the Kumbh Mela or the pitcher festival in Haridwar, India, Thursday, Jan. 14. AP / Saurabh Das



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Hindu devotees offer prayers while taking a dip in the River Ganges on the first day of the Kumbh Mela, or the pitcher festival, in Haridwar, India, Thursday, Jan. 14. AP / Saurabh Das



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An Indian Sikh washes his face during a ritual bath on the occasion of Maghi Mela at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on Jan. 14. AFP / Getty Images / Narinder Nanu



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Indian Hindu devotees gather to take a holy dip on the occasion of 'Makar Sankranti' during the Magh Mela' festival at Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers, in Allahabad on Jan. 14. AFP / Getty Images / Diptendu Dutta



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Sadhus, or Hindu holy men, take ritualistic dips at the Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, during the Makar Sankranti festival, a day-long celebration during the annual traditional fair of Magh Mela in Allahabad, India, Thursday, Jan. 14. AP / Rajesh Kumar Singh



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Hindu devotees offer prayers while taking a dip in the River Ganges on the first day of the Kumbh Mela or the pitcher festival in Haridwar, India, Thursday, Jan. 14. AP / Saurabh Das



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Pilgrims arrive to take holy dips in the Ganges river on the first day of the Kumbh Mela at Haridwar, India, Thursday, Jan. 14. AP / Saurabh Das



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Hindu devotees gather for a holy dip at 'Sangam', the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna river during the Makar Sankranti festival in Allahabad, India, Thursday, Jan. 14. AP / Rajesh Kumar Singh



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Indian Hindu devotees take bath and offer prayers after the solar eclipse on the banks of river Ganges in Haridwar on Jan. 15,, during the Kumbh Mela festival (Pitcher festival). AFP / Getty Images / Manan Vatsyayana



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Indian Hindu devotees take bath and offer prayers after the solar eclipse on the banks of river Ganges in Haridwar on Jan. 15,, during the Kumbh Mela festival (Pitcher festival). AFP / Getty Images / Manan Vatsyayana



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A Hindu Brahmin leaves the river after taking a bath on the auspicious day at the Kumbh fair on the bank of river Ganges at Haridwar, India, Friday, Jan. 15. AP / Saurabh Das



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Hindu devotees offer prayers at the 'Sangam,' the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati on Mauni Amavasya, an auspicious day for Hindus that falls during the annual traditional fair of Magh Mela in Allahabad, India, Friday, Jan. 15. AP / Rajesh Kumar Singh



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People bathe and pray on the auspicious day at the Kumbh fair on the bank of river Ganges at Haridwar, India, Friday, Jan. 15. AP / Saurabh Das



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Indian Hindus drink tea as they brave the cold by the river Ganges in Haridwar on Jan. 16, during the Kumbh Mela festival. AFP / Getty Images / Manan Vatsyayana



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Hindu devotees participate in a community feast on the banks of the River Ganges, during the annual traditional fair of Magh Mela in Allahabad, India, Saturday, Jan. 16. AP / Rajesh Kumar Singh



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An Indian Hindu sleeps next to a cow near the river Ganges in Haridwar on Jan. 16, during the Kumbh Mela festival. AFP / Getty Images / Manan Vatsyayana



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Pilgrims crowd the train station at Prayag, near the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Allahabad, India, Saturday, Jan. 16. AP / Rajesh Kumar Singh



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Sadhus, or Hindu holy men, perform religious rituals on the banks of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, on Basant Panchmi festival that falls during the annual traditional fair of Magh Mela in Allahabad, India, Wednesday, Jan. 20. AP / Rajesh Kumar Singh



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A Hindu pilgrim offers prayers after taking a holy dip in the 'Sangam', the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati river, marking Basant Panchmi festival which falls during the annual traditional fair of 'Magh Mela' in Allahabad, India, Wednesday, Jan. 20. AP / Rajesh Kumar Singh



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