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January 14, 2013
Millions of Hindus enter Ganges during festival

ALLAHABAD, India (AP) -- Indian authorities braced for one of the world's largest religious gatherings with more than 10 million Hindus entered the Ganges River early Monday to cleanse their sins in a festival held once every 12 years.

Naked ash-smeared holy men with long hair and beards and tridents in their hands held a massive procession to the riverbank in Allahabad where the Ganges joins the Yamuna River, and according to Hindu belief, the mythical Saraswati River. They entered the water at the auspicious time of 5 a.m. amid the chanting of hymns and blowing of conch shells.

Masses of people, their hands clasped in prayer, walk knee-deep into the frigid water, with temperature expected to dip to about 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees F).

Devout Hindus believe bathing in the Ganges during the festival can cleanse their sins and free them from the cycle of death and rebirth.

More than 100 million pilgrims from India and abroad were expected to attend the 55-day Maha Kumbh festival, said Devesh Chaturvedi, an official of Uttar Pradesh state in northern India.

(31 images)




Hindu devotees take a dip at Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati as others cross a make shift bridge, on one of the most auspicious day Makar Sankranti, the first day of the Maha Kumbh Mela, in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Rajesh Kumar Singh
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A foreign devotee prays at Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati on one of the most auspicious day Makar Sankranti, the first day of the Maha Kumbh Mela, in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Deepak Sharma
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Indian holy men move in a procession towards Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati for a holy dip n one of the most auspicious days, Makar Sankranti, the first day of the Maha Kumbh Mela, in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Rajesh Kumar Singh
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An Indian girl dressed as Hindu Goddess begs for alms as devotees leave after a dip at Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati for a dip on one of the most auspicious day Makar Sankranti, the first day of the Maha Kumbh Mela, in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Manish Swarup
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An Indian Hindu devotee holds up belongings for relatives as they take a dip at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
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An Indian Hindu drinks water as he prays at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
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An Indian Hindu holy men, or Naga Sadhu, prays at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
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An Indian Hindu volunteer carries a life preserver as he watches the fence line in the bathing area at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
india_maha _kumbh_mela_09.jpg
Indian Hindu devotees pray at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
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An Indian Hindu boy is reluctantly guided by his parents as they go for a dip fully clothed at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, early Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
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An Indian Hindu boy is held by his father as they go for a dip at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, early Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
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A Naked Hindu holy man or a Naga Sadhu watches others as they wait for a dip at Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati on one of the most auspicious day Makar Sankranti, the first day of the Maha Kumbh Mela, in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Manish Swarup
india_maha _kumbh_mela_13.jpg
Naked Hindu holy men or a Naga Sadhus rub ash on their bodies after a dip Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati for a dip on one of the most auspicious day Makar Sankranti, the first day of the Maha Kumbh Mela, in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Manish Swarup
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Indian Hindu holy men, or Sadhus, run into the water at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
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An Indian Hindu holy man, or Naga Sadhu, swings his head as he bathes at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
india_maha _kumbh_mela_16.jpg
Indian Hindu holy men, or Sadhus, are silhouetted as they celebrate in the water at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
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Hindu devotees leave in the evening after a dip at Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati for a dip on one of the most auspicious day Makar Sankranti, the first day of the Maha Kumbh Mela, in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Manish Swarup
india_maha _kumbh_mela_18.jpg
Indian Hindu holy men, or Naga Sadhus, celebrate naked in the water at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
india_maha _kumbh_mela_19.jpg
An Indian Hindu man jumps up and down in the water as he takes a dip at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
india_maha _kumbh_mela_20.jpg
Millions of Hindu devotees gather early morning at Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati on one of the most auspicious day Makar Sankranti and first the day of the Maha Kumbh Mela, in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Manish Swarup
india_maha _kumbh_mela_21.jpg
Hindu devotees watch Naked Hindu holy men or a Naga Sadhus as they arrive early morning for a dip at Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati on one of the most auspicious day Makar Sankranti, the first day of the Maha Kumbh Mela, in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Manish Swarup
india_maha _kumbh_mela_22.jpg
An Indian Hindu holy man, or Naga Sadhu, prays while taking a dip at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the royal bath on Makar Sankranti at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
india_maha _kumbh_mela_23.jpg
Hindu devotees watch Naked Hindu holy men or a Naga Sadhus as they arrive early morning for a dip at Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati on one of the most auspicious day Makar Sankranti, the first day of the Maha Kumbh Mela, in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Manish Swarup
india_maha _kumbh_mela_24.jpg
A horse mount naked Hindu holy man or a Naga Sadhu beats the drum as he returns after a dip at Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati on one of the most auspicious day Makar Sankranti, the first day of the Maha Kumbh Mela, in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Manish Swarup
india_maha _kumbh_mela_25.jpg
Naked Hindu holy men or a Naga Sadhus leave from their camp for a dip at Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati on one of the most auspicious day Makar Sankranti, the first day of the Maha Kumbh Mela, in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Rajesh Kumar Singh
india_maha _kumbh_mela_26.jpg
An Indian Hindu holy man, or Sadhu, blows a conch or horn before taking a bath at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, ahead of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Sunday Jan. 13, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
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An Indian Hindu woman dries saris after taking a bath at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, ahead of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Sunday Jan. 13, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
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An Indian Hindu holy man, or Sadhu, throws holy water on worshippers before taking a bath at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, ahead of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Sunday Jan. 13, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
india_maha _kumbh_mela_29.jpg
An Indian Hindu holy man, or Sadhu, holds his bag on his head as he arrives at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, ahead of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Sunday Jan. 13, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
india_maha _kumbh_mela_30.jpg
Indian security watch from boats at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, ahead of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Sunday Jan. 13, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer
india_maha _kumbh_mela_31.jpg
Indian Hindu pilgrims arrive before taking a bath at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, ahead of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, Sunday Jan. 13, 2013. AP / Kevin Frayer

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