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.
Credit: James Burke, photographer for LIFE magazine.