A Naga Sadhu or a Hindu holy man is covered in ashes as he participates in a procession before the second "Shahi Snan" (grand bath) at "Kumbh Mela" or the Pitcher Festival, in Prayagraj, previously known as Allahabad, India, February 4, 2019..
(photo credit: ADNAN ABIDI/ REUTERS)
Prayagraj [Allahabad] is one of the four cities in India where Hindu worshipers believe once touched divine nectar coveted by both Gods and demons. The other three are Hardiwar, Nashik and Ukkain.
The divine battle was over a pitcher [Kumbha] containing the elixir of immortality, four drops fell to earth during it and each city got one. Each city gets to hold a festival roughly every three years with a great one held every 12 years, this year's festival [Ardh Kumbh] marks the mid-way point to the great festival [Maha Kumbh Mela].
One of the aspects of the celebration is that according to Hindu faith if one dips in the meeting point of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical river Sarasvati one is cleansed from sin and the circle of death and re-birth. The festival's final day is Monday.
While many believe it is an ancient festival, the first written evidence of it is from 1790 when a local Muslim ruler reduces the tax levied on Hindu pilgrims entering Prayagraj to take part in it. The number of pilgrims and the funds required for the event had increased steadily since.
This year the Indian government prepared an informational video in which a grandmother prepares to depart on her way to the event. When her granddaughter sees that and wonders where she is going she tells her about the struggle between the demons and gods that churned the ocean, delivered the nectar and created the holiday.
The video ends with a few words from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The party is often said to represent National-Hindu views and the official change of the city's name from Allahabad to Prayagraj is such a case in point.
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