The Big Picture: Divine presents

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The Independent Online

Hindu pilgrims carrying holy water from the River Ganges make their hurried way to a sacred temple near Allahabad in India's north west. There the pilgrims, wearing saffron dyed clothes and known as Kanwarias, will offer the water to Shiva, the Hindu deity.

The thousand Kanwarias are making the journey during Purushottam Mas, an extra lunar month that occurs once every three years in the Hindu calendar. It is considered a special time, during which prayer, chanting and acts of charity are encouraged.

Allahabad sits at the Triveni Sangam, the confluence of Hinduism's three holy rivers: the Ganges, Yamuna and the invisible Sarasvati, a place of great significance for Hindus. In 1948, the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were finally immersed there.

The Maha Kumbh Mela – the "Great" Kumbh Mela – a religious festival which falls only once every 144 years, occurs there. The most recent one, in 2001, attracted 60 million people, the largest gathering of any kind on Earth.