Welcome To Kumbh Mela, The Largest Human Gathering On Earth

Published August 8, 2016
Updated January 23, 2018

These eye-popping images from Kumbh Mela reveal what it's like when 100 million people come together for this one-of-a-kind event.

Kumbh Mela

Daniel Berehulak/Getty ImagesNaga Sadhus, naked Hindu holy men, walk in procession after having bathed on the banks of the holy rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati, during the Maha Kumbh Mela on February 10, 2013 in Allahabad, India.

LEGEND HOLDS THAT KUMBH MELA originated in an ancient battle between gods and demons for the elixir of immortality. And even today, Kumbh Mela absolutely lives up to those larger-than-life origins.

Four Indian cities (Hardiwar, Allahabad, Nashik, Ujjain) take turns hosting this Hindu festival at somewhat irregular intervals, which are determined by the positioning of the Sun, the Moon, and Jupiter. Each location plays host once every 12 years.

The mass gathering allows ordinary Hindus to interact with and receive religious rites from the sadhus (holy men) that attend. Moreover, Kumbh Mela allows both sadhus and civilians to bathe in the festival site’s holy river, thereby cleansing themselves of sin.

As you might guess for a festival borne of divine battle and celebrated according to the alignment of celestial bodies, Kumbh Mela is positively gargantuan. More than 120 million people attended the 2013 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad over its two-month duration with 30 million attending on the festival’s holiest day alone. Those figures still may not give you the full scope of just how big this festival is, so maybe these photos will:

Kumbh Mela Charging Into Water
Kumbh Mela Crowd Fires
Hair Flipping
Man Smoking Long Pipe
Welcome To Kumbh Mela, The Largest Human Gathering On Earth
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Next, step inside India's eye-popping Theyyam festival, where humans become gods. Then, check out some of the weirdest festivals from around the world, and have a look at ten of the world's most eye-catching all-nude festivals and events.

John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.