Millions of Hindus are gearing up to celebrate the Kumbh Mela festival, called "the greatest show on earth."
The Kumbh Mela takes place for 55 days every 12 years, and is believed to be the biggest human gathering in the world, BBC News reported.
In 2001, the last Mela, more than 40 million people gathered during the festival's main bathing day.
GlobalPost's senior correspondent in India, Jason Overdorf, describes some social context to the major spectacle photographed below.
"In many ways the Maha Kumbh Mela represents all that is good and all that is bad in India: faith and madness, selfless generosity, incompetent leadership and a public with an unending ability to muddle along," Overdorf said.
"Nothing has branded India part of the 'exotic Orient' with more strength than the spectacle of a million-odd, dreadlocked, naked saints sprinting toward the Ganges — three-pronged spears of Shiva in hand — for the ritual bath. But somehow the West has always accepted, even found inspiration, in this mad dash for a holy river chock full of human waste," he added.
Devotees have been converging on the northern Indian city of Allahabad, one of four that according to Hindu myth got showered with nectar during a fight between the demons and the gods.
Hindus believe that bathing at the meeting point of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers will cleanse them of sins and bring them closer to salvation.
To prepare this year, the event's organizers have set up 35,000 toilets, 14 pop-up hospitals, 22,000 street lights, 93 miles of temporary roads, 18 bridges, and new sewage facilities, according to Agence France Presse.
“All arrangements have been made to ensure that on this auspicious occasion the bathing can take place in a smooth and acceptable fashion,” chief organizer Mani Prasad Mishra said Sunday.
Follow Jason Overdorf @joverdorf, who contributed from New Delhi.