Over 55 million Hindus have so far taken a dip in the holy river Shipra as part of the ongoing Simhastha Kumbh Mela—a Hindu mass pilgrimage celebrated every 12 years in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
Hindus believe that taking a dip in the holy waters during the Kumbh Mela washes away sins. But that may not have happened this year, as the water in Shipra is not its own.
Two years of drought have shrunk river Shipra and during this part of the year it is typically reduced to small puddles, The Economist reported last week. To preserve the pilgrimage, the state government has diverted water from the river Narmada into Shipra. “Giant pumps are sucking some 5,000 litres a second from a canal fed by the Narmada, lifting it by 350 metres and carrying it nearly 50 kilometres to pour into the Shipra’s headwaters,” The Economist said. All this while several parts of India are facing severe water scarcity.
But borrowed water has not dampened the spirits of pilgrims. This year, around 70 million pilgrims are expected to participate in the festival, which started on Apr. 22 and will conclude on May 21. Here are some scenes from the Simhastha Kumbh Mela—counted among the largest religious gatherings on the planet: