Humans gather a lot for different reasons. They assemble from all parts of the world for a holy pilgrimage, to show support, to show solidarity, and also to fight for their rights. Whatever the reason, the past has seen some immense gatherings of men and women, and the numbers only continue to grow every year. One interesting thing to note here is that the largest gatherings of humans have been for a religious purpose. Here are the top 10 world’s largest human gathering in history.
1. World Youth Day 1995 in Manila, Philippines
The World Youth Day celebration, held from January 10-15, 1995, in Manila, Philippines, was attended by more than 4 million people. The festival is a Catholic one and it was the first edition of this festival held in an Asian nation. Pope John Paul II presided over this festival which was not only attended by youth from across Asia but all parts of the world.
2. The funeral of Pope John Paul II, April 7, 2005, Rome
The funeral had more than 4 million people attending. Besides that, the funeral also gathered the largest number of political leaders outside of the United Nations. Pope John Paul II was a loved public figure and his death mourned by people all across the world. His funeral is also the largest gathering of Christians in history. What was also rare about his death was the mourning by followers from different religions.
3. Sabarimala Pilgrimage, January 14, 2007, India
Sabarimala is a world-renowned pilgrimage center for Hindus. The state of Kerala sees more than 40 million devotees annually making it one of the most visited shrines in the world. The temple, known to be an ancient meditation place of the Lord Ayyappan, stands atop a hill about 450 meters high. On January 14, 2007, more than 5 million pilgrims thronged to get a glimpse of their deity.
4. Ayatollah Khomeini Funeral, Iran
The funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini was held on June 3, 1989, and was attended by more than 8 million mourners. Ayatollah Khomeini was a prominent Iranian religious and political leader. After the Iranian Revolution where he successfully helped overthrow the Shah, he went on to become the country’s highest religious and political figure. He had immense national and international influence and was often heralded as the face of Islam itself in western popular culture.
5. Karbala, Iraq, 2009
Karbala is one of the holiest cities for Shia Muslims in the world after their two most revered sites in Mecca and Medina. The city of Karbala is located around a hundred miles to the southwest of the capital city of Baghdad in Iraq. In 2009, more than 8 million Shia Muslims visited the shrine of Imam Hussein. Every year millions of people visit the city but the gathering in 2009 was beyond anyone’s imagination. This is one of the largest gatherings of Muslims recorded in history.
6. Mass Gathering of Red Guards, Beijing, 1966, China
The mass gathering of Red Guards was an important event in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. The gathering of the Red Guards which consisted of people willing to take part in a revolution started on August 18, 1966, and swelled to around 11 million people over time. This is one of the largest political gatherings ever recorded.
7. The funeral of C.N. Annadurai in 1969, India
C.N. Annadurai, otherwise known to his followers as Anna, was one of the most popular political leaders in South India. He was also a well-known public speaker and writer. He is known as one of the most charismatic political leaders of south India and his funeral which was held in the month of February 1969 was attended by more than 15 million people. This is also the world record for the highest number of people attending a funeral. He died of cancer two years after he had formed the first non-congress government in his home state of Tamil Nadu.
8. Simhastha Kumbh Mela, April 5, 2004, India
An estimate of more than 30 million people attended the Simhastha Kumbha Mela which was held in April 2004 at the city of Ujjain. This month-long event draws Hindus from all over the world to take part in this unique holy bathing festival. The Kumbh is one of the largest human gatherings in the history of the world.
9. Ardh Kumbh Mela, January 2007, India
The Ardh Kumbh Mela in January 2007 was the second largest human gathering in history so far. A staggering 70 million pilgrims attended this gigantic fair which was held in the city of Allahabad. The Kumbh grows with every passing year as is evident from the ongoing Kumbh fair at Allahabad.
10. Maha Kumbh, January 2013, India
Billed as the largest human gathering in the world, the Maha Kumbh has already been estimated to attract more than 100 million people. That is 30 million more than the 2007 Ardh Kumbh. Since the estimates are from credible media sources and the government, there is no reason not to take it at face value. Moreover, this is a one of a kind festival since such an auspicious event will not happen for the next 100 years which makes it all the more important for Hindus in a billion plus country to wash off their sins.