Imagine a festival in which every American, from Denver to the Pacific, from Seattle to Phoenix and from Cheyenne to San Diego was in attendance – between 80 and 100 million living souls. India’s Maha Kumbh Mela is such a festival.

The largest peaceful gathering on Earth, the Kumbh Mela festival involves millions of people making a pilgrimage to the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, where they will bathe in an attempt to purify their sins. The festival takes place where the Hindu scriptures say the gods spilt a single drop of the elixir of eternal life. Kumbh means “pitcher,” a reference to the orb from which the elixir was dropped during the great “churning of the ocean.”) The term “Mela” means “fair.” Vishnu is said to have spilled four drops of the elixir: one in Nashik, Ujjain, Haridwar and Allahabad/Prayag. Hence, there are four distinct Kumbh Mela celebrations in these spots.

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