The religious fervour that accompanies a Kumbh Mela cannot be experienced. It has to be seen. In 2001, over 100 million people bathed along the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers during the 42-day Mela in Allahabad.
Though the rain gods dampened the spirits this time around, the Mela still started off on the dot at 11:51am in Nashik, some 180 km from Mumbai, on July 30, when the Sun and Jupiter entered the constellation of Leo. More than half-a-million devotees, sadhus and priests kicked off the festival as thousands of policemen and lifeguards kept watch.
Here, women devotees make their way to the Godavari river on the first day of the month-long festival.
Photograph: Sebastian D'Souza/AFP/Getty Images