Hundreds of thousands of Hindu faithful including ash-smeared holy men gather in the Indian city of Nashik on the banks of the Godavari River, as devotees from all walks of life bathe in the holy waters.
Kumbh Mela, or Pitcher Festival, is celebrated in four different Indian cities over a period of 12 years. This time round pilgrims congregate in Nashik, in the western state of Maharashtra.
Hindu faithful, sadhus or holy men among them, gather to pray in the water and cleanse themselves of sin. Kumbh Mela is rooted in the Hindu belief that Vishnu fought with demons for a golden pot containing the nectar of immortality. Four drops fell to earth in the cities of Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujain and Nashik.Pilgrims take ritual grand baths, or Shahi Snan, during auspicious planetary alignments. Believers say spiritual energy flows to earth while they plunge in the water.