Religion: The Holiest Day in History

As conch shells and cymbals sounded, the first flower-decked palanquin, bearing the leader of Hinduism's Maha Nirvana sect, moved toward the river bank near Allahabad where the Yamuna River meets the Ganges. Alongside marched a troop of elephants, trumpeting, their heaving bodies covered with garlands and painted symbols. Then through the police cordon flowed thousands of pilgrims from nine other ancient Hindu sects. Among them came a procession of Naga sadhus, celibate holy men who follow Shiva, the god of the forces of both life and destruction. They were all naked, except for a coating of sand and ashes, to proclaim...

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