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From January to February 2001, tens of millions of pilgrims assembled in Allahabad, North India for the month-long Maha Kumbh Mela festival, held only once every one hundred forty-four years. This, the largest gathering of human beings on earth—so big, in fact, that the crowd was visible from space—was composed of devotees of all ages, castes, and classes from every corner of India.

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