Many millions of Hindus are gathered along the shores of their holiest river, the Ganges, in one of the world's largest religious gatherings, the Kumbh Mela. Over a few weeks, up to 70 million Hindus swim in the chilly waters — many of them on what India's astrologers deem to be "auspicious" bathing days.
The Hindu swimmers say they believe the waters cleanse the soul of sin.
ut the effect of Ganges water on the body is another matter. The river is dying from a massive overdose of sewage and chemical waste, and is so filthy that some "saddhus" - Hindu holy men - recently threatened to commit mass suicide unless the government did something to clean it up.