A missions agency observes need at a religious festival in India.

By April 27, 2004

India (MNN)–It’s an atmosphere that is saturated with spirituality.

India’s Madhya Pradesh state is the site of one of the largest human congregations in the world. The town if Ujjain is filled with a relentless stream of pilgrims from various parts of the country for the century’s first Kumbh mela which will end May 4th.

The Kumbh Mela is an observance stemming from ancient mythology. According to the Hindu myth, a few drops of nectar fell from the heaven into the Shipra river, making its waters holy. Hindus believe taking a bath in the river during the fair washes away their sins.

Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s Erich Bridges is in Ujjain and observes that, unlike the previous religious fair in Allahmabad, “This year’s Kumbh Mela is a bit smaller, but it’s still visible from orbiting satellite that is taken from hundreds of miles up.”

Under tight security, Bridges says, “throngs of pilgrims, gurus, hermits and holy men press in to bathe in the sacred Shipra River, which flows from the Ganges. They believe a holy dip in the waters will wash away their sins and purify their hearts.”

It’s a cacophony, as well. “Swamis of every description set up camps with their followers, competing over countless loudspeakers with chants and sermons for the faithful. It may be only a ritual or an outing for some, but millions believe they are finding mercy. They are the millions who need the mercy of Christ. ”

The IMB is in Madhya Pradesh working to support the ministry of the local church. Their teams are also active in partnerships with organizations aiding women and children in need.

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