Although the above photograph is of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, another similar Hindu religious festival is underway. The period from January 12-15, 2008 is the auspicious date for the annual gathering of Hindu pilgrims during Makar Sankranti at Sagar Island, south of Kolkata.
Pilgrims arrive in their thousands from across India in the first week of January to bathe in the waters of the Ganges before it merges in the Bay of Bengal. The pilgrims offer prayers to Lord Surya, and subsequent to immersing themselves in the cold waters of the river, they ritualistically offer water to Lord Surya; a ritual which washes off their sins.
It is expected that the number of pilgrims will reach at least 500,000 on the most auspicious day of Makar Sankranti. It is also rumored that non-Hindus have to obtain special permits to attend, and photographers have to apply in Kolkata. There are few options for accommodations on the island.