People bathe in polluted waters during Kumbh Mela

Photo: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images

Bathing in filth

Indian men search for coins and gold on April 2 in the polluted waters of the Ganges river near the Triveni Sangam in Allahabad, India following the Kumbh Mela festival.

Drawing massive crowds of devotees, ascetics and foreign tourists, the two-month-long Kumbh Mela festival is celebrated every 12 years at the confluence of sacred Ganges and Yamuna rivers. Although the custom for Kumbh Mela is to bathe in these holy waters, about 426 million liters of domestic sewage pollution from the Ganges and its upstream tributaries are pumped into the Sangam every day.

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A child bathes in polluted waters during Kumbh Mela

Photo: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images

Washing away sins with sewage

A young boy bathes in the mucky, polluted waters of the Sangam after the Kumbh Mela festival. On the first day of the festival, an estimated 8 million people took a dip in the holy waters in hopes of washing away their sins.

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