Kumbh Mela, unofficially the world’s biggest gathering, is held every four years in India. The Hindu holy festival attracts millions of devotees from the country and abroad. On special occasions, considered auspicious according to Hindu holy books, the number swells to a size that can dwarf the population of many western cities like in 2013 Allahabad Mahakumbh. Given the size of the Indian population – over 1.2 billion – this does not come as a surprise. But here you see pictures from Kumbh Mela of 1954 in Allahabad when the country’s entire population was in mere 36 million. Moreover, unlike these days the publicity of such festivals was not widespread.

1. The mela of faith

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (1)

2. Many yet few

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (2)

3. Sailing the Ganges

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (3)

4. Tents and two cars

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (4)

5. A unique sight

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (5)

6. Multitudes of ethnicity

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (6)

7. Ganges conquered

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (7)

8. A bridge on the river of faith

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (8)

9. All for a dip

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (9)

10. As many more wait

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (10)

11. That unique sight again

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (11)

12. Drying on the banks

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (12)

13. Another sight

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (13)

14. And more are drying their clothes

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (14)

15. A faith unparalleled

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (15)


16. Tents and people

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (17)

17. A sun rises

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (18)

18. Only boats sail

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (19)

19. Camping on holy ground

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (20)

20. Flocks of the faithful

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (21)

21. All walking for salvation

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (22)

22. An unbelievable sight

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (25)

23. A Naga sanyasi sleeping

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (26)

24. For cleansing of soul

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (27)

25. An old brand promotion banner

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (28)

26. The panorama of worshippers

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (29)

27. Glory of the sun

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (30)

28. A fine mix

1954 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (31)

Credit: James Burke, photographer for LIFE magazine.

Popular on the Web

Discussions