Amongst a throng of bodies daubed with sacred mud, a young Hindu boy raises his hands in quiet prayer. He is smothered in grey gloop – all that remains of a dried-up pond, which is believed to have healing powers.
A member of the Raj family, who own the pond, was reportedly cured of throat cancer following a bath in the mud, and rumours about the site spread. This weekend, hundreds of pilgrims came to pray at the pond, which is situated in Nakali village, around 40 miles south of Kolkata. After bathing in the mud, families queued to receive prasad or food donations.
However, the huge influx of people has raised widespread fears that the site is being polluted, and may pose a risk to the health of pilgrims.