|Yoga guru Baba Ramdev at the Mela [AFP]
The Kumbh Mela, in the northern Indian city of Allahabad, is recognized as the largest gathering of humanity on Earth.
By the end of Monday 14th it is expected that some 10 million pilgrims will have gathered for this Hindu festival which occurs every 12 years.
Allahabad lies at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers and pilgrims believe that bathing in the waters will wash away their sins and bring salvation.
Of course, much of northern India has been hit by a series of ‘cold waves’ which have taken a significant toll. Around 250 people have lost their lives either from hypothermia or, more frequently, as a result of cold-related illnesses such as respiratory infections or pneumonia.
Whilst northwestern areas of the country, especially the state of Uttar Pradesh, have been worst affected, Allahabad has not escaped.
Nighttime minima have fallen as low as 2C this month and on Monday 7th daytime temperatures rose to just 6C.
Fortunately, we have seen a recovery in temperatures over the last week or so, and on Sunday the city recorded a maximum temperature of 26C.
It is expected that the warming will continue in the coming week. Despite rather cloudy skies, temperatures will rise to 28C by Friday with nighttime lows remaining in double figures.
This will go some way to compensating for the cold of the river. Both the Ganges and Yamuna are cold water rivers, having their origins high in the Himalayas to the north. This means that the water temperature is around just 12C.
With the Mela lasting for 55 days there is still the chance that colder weather will return to the city before the winter’s end. For the time being at least, pilgrims are unlikely to have to shiver to maintain their faith.