Half a million Hindus bathe in India’s Ganges; first day crush kills 7
Hundreds of thousands of Hindus bathed in waters considered sacred across large parts of India to mark the start of a religious festival on Thursday, with at least seven people killed in a stampede in the country’s east.
At least half a million men, women and children braved chilly winds to bathe in the icy waters of the Ganges in the holy Himalayan town of Haridwar at the “Kumbh Mela,” or Pitcher Festival, held every 12 years in different Indian cities. Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganges during the almost four-month-long festival cleanses them of their sins, speeding the way to the attainment of nirvana.
The ritual bathing takes place in other venues as well, with massive crowds often leading to accidents. In West Bengal state in the east, six women were among seven people killed in a stampede as thousands bathed at the confluence of Ganges river and the Bay of Bengal, officials said.
More than 50 million people from India and abroad are expected to visit the holy city of Haridwar over the next few months, authorities said. Haridwar is one of four spots where Garuda, the winged steed of the Hindu god Vishnu, is said to have rested during a battle with demons over a pitcher of the divine nectar of immortality.
Here’s a video detailing security measures for this huge festival: