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Record 120 million take dip as Maha Kumbh fest ends

Filed on March 12, 2013

ALLAHABAD - A record 120 million devotees took bath in an Indian river during a religious festival that ended on Sunday, officials said.

The two-month-long Maha Kumbh Mela Hindu festival celebrated every 12 years at the conjunction of two rivers on the outskirts of the northern Indian city of Allahabad drew massive crowds of Hindu devotees, ascetics and foreign tourists.

“Over 60 million people attended the festival in 2001 and this time we believe 120 million people have participated,” festival chief Mani Prasad Mishra said.

The festival involves crowd management on a jaw-dropping scale and despite all the precautions was hit by tragedy last month when a stampede at a train station in Allahabad killed 36 pilgrims who were returning from the festival.

Despite the hardships of waking early, plunging into the polluted river water and the relentless crush of the crowds, pilgrims from all over the world described feeling spiritually uplifted and amazed by the scale of the event.

“There is a sense of relief because the festival finally is coming to an end. Most of the pilgrims have returned back home,” said Mishra.

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