INTRODUCTION: Millions of Hindu pilgrims have gathered at Allahabad in India at the beginning of the six week Kumbh Mela Fair on the banks of the Ganges and Jumna rivers.
LV PAN & CU Mounted police and pilgrims arriving for the Kumbh Mela Fair (2 shots)
GV & CU Tented village with pilgrims cooking (4 shots)
TV ZOOM OUT Massed pilgrims moving to and from water
CU & TV Pilgrims in crowd with police controlling them (4 shots)
TV Elderly women and holy men being carried in litters (3 shots)
GV & LV Pilgrims bathing in water (4 shots)
TGV Massed pilgrims at water with boats
CU Boats carrying pilgrims
LV & SV Boats on water edges with pilgrims changing clothes (2 shots)
SV Pilgrim having fallen between two boats and being rescued
LV & SV Pilgrims washing at water's edge (3 shots)
GV Massed Pilgrims and boats
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: INTRODUCTION: Millions of Hindu pilgrims have gathered at Allahabad in India at the beginning of the six week Kumbh Mela Fair on the banks of the Ganges and Jumna rivers.
SYNOPSIS: The Fair, which began on Wednesday (19 January) is one of the World's major religious events, and Indian Government officials expect about ten million people will attend it this year. Even on the first day it was estimated that five million pilgrims had set up temporary camps in the area, with another one-and-a-half million staying in Allahabad.
The Kumbh Mela Fair takes place only once every twelve years, and it is, in effect, a parliament of Hinduism the fait the which most of India's six hundred million people adhere. Astrologers and religious leaders have declared that this year's Fair is the most auspicious for 144 years.
On Wednesday the bathing Festival of Mami Amawashya coincided with the rise of the new moon which is the most holy time to bathe during the Fair. Hindus believe that a bathe in the holy waters at the confluence of the Ganges, the Jumna and the mythical Saraswati rivers, removes sins and helps assure salvation.
The Festival has its origins in Hindu mythology. The story says that after a battle between the gods and demons over a pitcher--or Kumbh--containing the nectar of immortality, one of the gods rested at the confluence of the rivers on his twelve year journey to heaven.
The first bathers this year plunged into the muddy waters at about three o'clock in the morning.
However, the main festivities of the first day began later with a procession of holy men representing the various orders of Hinduism, followed by elephants and musicians. The holy men--or Sadhus--are Hindu ascetics who devote their lives to the religion. Before bathing, they smeared their bodies with ash and knotted their hair. throughout the day people bathed in the cold waters of the two rivers, and hundreds of small boats ferried them out to the point where the waters merged.
The massed communal bathing is on a scale which only India, with its vast population and deep religious conditions, can produce.
As the pilgrims on the banks and on the boats prepared for their ceremonial dip in the holy waters, the triangular saffron flags of the Hindu religion continued to flutter from the tent tops, giving whole camp area the appearance of a medieval tented city. the camp covers an area of about 3,600 acres (1,400 hectares), and yet throughout the six weeks of the Fair the banks of the rivers will be packed with pilgrims.
The authorities have imposed compulsory cholera vaccinations for everyone entering the camp, and laid on drinking water and sewerage facilities for the pilgrims.