Nearly 70 million Hindus are expected to bathe in frigid temperatures at the confluence of the Jamuna, Ganges and Saraswati rivers on Wednesday in north India, as part of a weeks-long religious pilgrimage aimed at washing away earthly sins.
In preparation for one of the world's largest gatherings of people, authorities have put up nearly 50,000 tents and 25,000 makeshift toilets in a sprawling area of 80 square kilometers on the banks of the Ganges River.
Allahabad, the venue of the Ardh Kumbh Mela is nearly 200 kilometers southeast of Lucknow. The bathing spreads over six auspicious days, depending on the alignment of stars.
Authorities have spent more than 7.5 billion rupees (US$163 million, â‚¬125 million) to provide infrastructure for the festival, said N. C. Bajpai, a top state government official. However, Hindu devotees have been complaining about cold and lack of proper toilets.
According to Hindu mythology, gods and demons fought a celestial war, spilling nectar at Allahabad in a pitcher or Kumbh. Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganges during the festivals washes away their sins and ends the process of reincarnation.