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The Power of Group Devotion, 100 Million Strong

Photo Credit: Jean-Marc Giboux

Groups of Sadhus, Hindu holy men, their foreheads smeared with sacred ash, their necks encircled with marigold garlands as bright orange as the robes they wear, sit atop decorated chariots. Other ascetics, clad only in potato sacks or leopard-skin loincloths, straddle flower-festooned horses. Yet more are naked but for the ash covering their chests, dreadlocks adorned with half-moon ornaments, hands clutching tridents.Photographer Jean-Marc Giboux says it’s easy to get caught up in the riot of color and movement of India’s Kumbh Mela, considered the largest pilgrimage in the world. But after covering the event five times, Giboux says it’s the intensity of group spiritual devotion that has him entranced.“I have peeled off at every Kumbh Mela another tiny layer,” he says, “and felt in a different way the reverberation of the terrific energy that is at its core.”The celebration is expected to draw as many as 100 million pilgrims to Allahabad, India, this month.The sense of spiritual upliftment that comes from being a part of a Kumbh Mela is unique, says Susan Shumsky, a spiritual guide and teacher and auth …

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