Hindu festival in India soaked in faith and politics

Ruling BJP hopes costly event - the first with transgenders - will translate into win at polls

Transgender ascetics taking a holy bath on Tuesday at the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers during the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahabad in India's Uttar Pradesh state.
Transgender ascetics taking a holy bath on Tuesday at the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers during the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahabad in India's Uttar Pradesh state.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

One of Hinduism's biggest religious congregations began this week with the achievement of a historic milestone. Dozens of transgender ascetics bathed at the holy confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, alongside other Hindu ascetics at the Kumbh Mela, for the first time.

Hindus believe bathing in the these holy waters at the auspicious time of the Kumbh brings salvation from the cycle of life and death.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2019, with the headline 'Hindu festival in India soaked in faith and politics'. Print Edition | Subscribe