Inside the 'Largest Human Gathering in History'
The Kumbh Mela draws tens of millions
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2013 11:27 AM CST
Updated Jan 19, 2013 12:07 PM CST
An Indian Hindu holy man performs morning prayers for devotees at Sangam, the confluence of the holy rivers Ganges and Yamuna and mythical Saraswati at the Maha Kumbh Mela.   (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

(Newser) – If you've never heard of the Kumbh Mela, well, you're sort of forgiven. As Quartz explains, the event is largely ignored by the West—even though it occurs every three years, with a big to-do every 12, and just so happens to be the "largest human gathering in history." This is one of those purna ("complete") years, and attendance estimates for the 55-day religious festival, which began this week, top out at 110 million Hindus. They'll gather at the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati, to wash away their sins; more than 10 million were expected to do so on the first day alone. Some of the numbers behind the gathering, per the AP and BBC:

  • 50,000 police are on hand to keep order and attempt to prevent stampedes
  • More than 1 million tents have been raised
  • There are 35,000 makeshift toilets available—and another 4,000 urinals
  • Some 10,000 sweepers will attempt to keep the northern city of Allahabad clean; as much as 165 tons of trash will be generated a day
  • With temps dipping as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit, some 2,700 tons of firewood will be burned
  • There's a lost and found—for people, not things