Hundreds of thousands of Hindu worshippers flocked to the banks of the Ganges river in India’s West Bengal state Friday despite a surge in COVID-19 infections.
The Gangasagar Mela is a nine-day festival that runs Jan. 8 through 16.
The age-old ritual of bathing in the waters of the holy river traditionally draws millions of pilgrims to its banks.
In 2019, a record 3.5 million people bathed there.
Despite appeals from medical experts to cancel the event this year, tens of thousands of worshippers had already arrived at the site ahead of the festival.
Experts warn the situation could worsen COVID infection rates, driven by outbreaks of the delta and omicron variants.