India's gov't boosts massive Hindu festival, eyeing election

Hindu devotees march in a procession to participate in spiritual-cleansing baths in the Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and the m

Hindu devotees march in a procession to participate in spiritual-cleansing baths in the Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and the m

A Hindu devotee takes a spiritual-cleansing dip at the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati river during the Kumbh

A Hindu devotee takes a spiritual-cleansing dip at the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati river during the Kumbh

Hindu devotees dry their clothes after taking spiritual-cleansing dips in the Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Sa

Hindu devotees dry their clothes after taking spiritual-cleansing dips in the Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Sa

An Indian Hindu pilgrim prays at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahab

An Indian Hindu pilgrim prays at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahab

Hindu devotees arrive to take spiritual-cleansing dips in the Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati during t

Hindu devotees arrive to take spiritual-cleansing dips in the Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati during t

Thousands of Hindu devotees take spiritual-cleansing dips in the Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati durin

Thousands of Hindu devotees take spiritual-cleansing dips in the Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati durin

Hindu devotees take spiritual-cleansing dips in the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati rivers during the Kumbh F

Hindu devotees take spiritual-cleansing dips in the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati rivers during the Kumbh F

Uttar Pradesh police Anti-Terrorism Squad patrol on motorbikes at the spiritual-cleansing Kumbh Festival in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan.14, 2019. In

Uttar Pradesh police Anti-Terrorism Squad patrol on motorbikes at the spiritual-cleansing Kumbh Festival in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan.14, 2019. In

An overview of the sprawling tent city set up for Hindu devotees for the spiritual-cleansing Kumbh Festival is seen from a bridge in Allahabad, India,

An overview of the sprawling tent city set up for Hindu devotees for the spiritual-cleansing Kumbh Festival is seen from a bridge in Allahabad, India,

Indian Hindu pilgrims gather at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahaba

Indian Hindu pilgrims gather at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahaba

An Indian Hindu pilgrim prays at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahab

An Indian Hindu pilgrim prays at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahab

An Indian Hindu pilgrim prays at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahab

An Indian Hindu pilgrim prays at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahab

Indian Hindu pilgrims pray at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahabad,

Indian Hindu pilgrims pray at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahabad,

PRAYAGRAJ, India (AP) — India's Hindu nationalist government is splashing out on a religious megafest, spending unprecedented sums as part of a strategy focusing on the country's majority Hindu population ahead of a general election due this year.

The Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival, is taking place in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh beginning this week and runs through early March. That state and India's central government are led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which espouses the view that India is a Hindu nation, despite its religious diversity and secular constitution.

The Kumbh Mela is a series of ritual baths by Hindu sadhus, or holy men, and other pilgrims at the confluence of three sacred rivers that dates back to at least medieval times.

Some 150 million people are expected to attend.