Kumbha Mela - Haridwar - 1998

The ancient Kumbha Mela festival is the largest spiritual gathering in the world. The Kumbha Mela in 2001 was attended by 70 million people, and saw 25 million people bathing in the Ganges on a single day. It is held alternately in the Indian cities of Allahabad , Ujjain , Nasik and Haridwar, with intervals of 3 years. According to an ancient legend it is in these 4 places that some drops of the Nectar of Immortality fell from the heavens. On astrologically calculated days, different religious sects from all over India gather and take ritual baths in the holy river. Most famous are the naga-babas , or naked saints, who seem to take pride in their anarchy and walk around carrying large swords and tridents. The photos in this section were taken during the 1998 festival in Haridwar, at the foothills of the Himalayas .