Photos: Magh Mela 2021 kicks off in Prayagraj amid Covid

Millions of Hindus travel every year to the event, called Magh Mela, where pilgrims offer prayers and enter the holy waters where the Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers meet. In Hinduism, this period is called Kalpvas and the devotees who choose to stay for the entire time are known as Kalpvasis. They give up their daily routine and instead camp at the site, living on frugal meals and performing rituals. Virender Kumar Shukla, a Kalpvasi devotee, is attending for the fifth time. He said he hopes by offering prayers to “find a place in heaven” and earn “a better rebirth.” Authorities took months to build what looks like a temporary tented city on the river banks. Police patrol the site and floating bridges were built to help people get from one side of the river to the other. Boats ferry pilgrims from the bank of the Yamuna to the Sangam, where they bathe in the holy water and offer their prayers. The festival is being held even though COVID-19 cases in some parts of the country are rising after months of steady decline. India has confirmed 11 million cases and over 150,000 deaths.

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 08:55 AM IST 9 Photos
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Pilgrims take holy dips early morning at Sangam, the sacred confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, during Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

Pilgrims take holy dips early morning at Sangam, the sacred confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, during Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 08:55 AM IST
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A Holy man smears ash on his hair after a holy dip at Sangam, the sacred confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, during Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

A Holy man smears ash on his hair after a holy dip at Sangam, the sacred confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, during Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 08:55 AM IST
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Holy men pray on the banks of the river Ganges during Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

Holy men pray on the banks of the river Ganges during Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 08:55 AM IST
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Holy men pray on the bank of the river Ganges during Magh mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

Holy men pray on the bank of the river Ganges during Magh mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 08:55 AM IST
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A sadhu or Holy man prays as others shower flower petals on him during Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

A sadhu or Holy man prays as others shower flower petals on him during Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 08:55 AM IST
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Devotees arrive at Sangam, the sacred confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati for Magh mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

Devotees arrive at Sangam, the sacred confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati for Magh mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 08:55 AM IST
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Holy men prepare food on the banks of the river Ganges during Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, India, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

Holy men prepare food on the banks of the river Ganges during Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, India, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 08:55 AM IST
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A priest prepares vermillion paste for pilgrims at Sangam during Magh mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.(AP)

A priest prepares vermillion paste for pilgrims at Sangam during Magh mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.(AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 08:55 AM IST
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A Hindu Holy man lies in front of an image of Hindu Goddess of learning Saraswati, at Sangam, the sacred confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, during Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

A Hindu Holy man lies in front of an image of Hindu Goddess of learning Saraswati, at Sangam, the sacred confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, during Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, India Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.(AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 08:55 AM IST
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