As we drove along the highways of Uttar Pradesh and Rajisthan in India, we noticed a lot of people, mostly young men, though a few women too, who were carrying poles decorated with colourful handkerchiefs and baskets with containers. Their mission is to walk the hundreds of kilometres to the sacred Ganges River, collect the water and return it to their homes. There it will be given as gift at weddings, or other special occasions, or used to help those who are ill.
It is part of the Hindu Kumbh Mela Festival during which people dip in the Ganges to cleanse themselves of spiritual and physical illness in a baptism of renewal.
Our guide insisted that it was important for the pilgrims to walk the pilgrimage, but other reports suggest that the journey is also made by car and motorbike. Those that we saw were on foot. Their decorated poles made them easy to spot.
Hindu pilgrims walk
with poles across their shoulders,
carting Ganges home.