Finally we made it to the event of a life time: The 2007 Ardh Kumbh Mela in Allahabad! This is without comparison the largest religious festival in the world, and perhaps the largest of any event in the world.
To get to the festival ground we had to walk for more than 8 kilometers starting at 4:00 in the morning. The walk takes you across a major bridge over the river Ganges allowing fantastic views of the festival ground. The size of this thing is truly mind blowing. In tent camps stretching as far as the eye can see you have more people than living in the entire city of New York. I do not exaggerate, when I say that the first glimpse of this sea of light simply takes your breath away. From the above picture you see the view south from the bridge down towards the Sangam (The confluence of the two holy rivers Yamuna and Ganges). What you see in this picture is just a tiny fraction of the entire Mela ground.
Here you see the view to the other side of the bridge (looking north). Already at this point well before sunrise you can see hordes of people moving down towards the Sangam to be there in time for the morning bathing ritual. We arrived on the 19th of January, which is one of the most important bathing dates of the whole festival.
After walking another couple of kilometers we had to walk back over the Ganges via a smaller pontoon bridge. We got stuck in a procession of VIPs sitting on top of trucks. It gave us a chance to talk to them a bit, which led them to beg us to take their photos.
Despite the delay on the bridge we made it down to the river bank by time for sunrise. Lots of activity there.
A little later people started taking the first dips. Remember that Uttar Pradesh is quite a cold place in January, so this water is very, very chilly. But that didn't stop the faithful.
A young man holds out his hands in silent prayer while looking at the rising sun.
Another procession of some sort. Note that most of the participants here are white Hindus, the most important of them wearing the traditional colour of Hinduism: Orange (surrounding a non-white Guru).
I managed to get access to a press tower for taking photos. Here you can really see how many people are by the banks of the river.
And then a view uphill to the west of the fair ground. This is what a small part of 20 million people look like!