Source: Associated Press
By EMILY SCHMALL
PRAYAGRAJ, India (AP) — India’s Hindu nationalist-led government is splashing out on a religious megafest, spending unprecedented sums as part of a strategy to focus on the country’s majority Hindu population ahead of a general election due this year.
Both the central government in New Delhi and the government of Uttar Pradesh — the north Indian state where the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival, is taking place beginning this week — are controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which espouses the view that India is a Hindu nation, despite the religious diversity of its 1.3 billion people and the secularism enshrined in its constitution.
The Kumbh Mela is a series of ritual baths by Hindu sadhus, or holy men, and other pilgrims at the confluence of three sacred rivers — the Yamuna, the Ganges and the mythical Saraswati — that dates back to at least medieval times. Pilgrims bathe in the river believing it cleanses them of their sins and ends their process of reincarnation.