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"Kumbh Mela" from Hindi, literally means pitcher festival or Aquarius festival, from Sanskrit kumbha pot, Aquarius + melā assembly

The Kumbh Mela is a Hindu religious pilgrimage festival that takes place at the conjunction of several holy rivers in India. It occurs every 12 years, lasts six weeks, and attracts up to 70 million people.

The ultimate goal of pilgrims is ritual bathing to attain mukti, i.e., freedom from reincarnation.

The three main bathing days for the 2013 Kumbh Mela are January 14, February 10, and February 15.

Cholera inoculation was compulsory for pilgrims to the 1977 Kumbh Mela.

The Kumbha Mela at Hardvar is sometimes called the Ardha Kumba Mela because its 12-year cycle falls halfway between the Melas at Allahabad.

Visitors at past Kumbh Melas (estimates): 1954: 6 million, 1965: 4 million, 1977: 13-15 million, 1989: 18 million, 2001: 30 million.

On chief bathing days, the crowd is large enough to be visible from space satellites, comprising a (temporary) city as large as New York, London, and Paris combined.

“Well-to-do pilgrims [stay] in pukka houses…Those who are less well off stay in temporary thatched huts along the river bank. The vast majority live in the sandy plain under the open sky.”

Cholera from the 1867 Kumbh at Hardwar spread to Persia, then to Turkey and Kiev, whence it was carried by pilgrims to the rest of Russia and so to Europe, where over one million people died.