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Thousands of Hindu holy men on Monday threatened to boycott ceremonies at a weeks-long pilgrimage to wash away their sins in the river Ganges, saying the divine river was too polluted.The saffron-clad, ash-smeared holy men, or sadhus, gathered at the fair grounds in Allahabad to demand the state of the waters be improved by Jan. 12, the date of the next great immersion.

Allahabad, the venue of the “Ardh Kumbh Mela” or Half Grand Pitcher festival, is nearly 190 kilometers southeast of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.

The water in (the) river is so dirty that no one can take a dip. It is dark red whereas the Ganges used to be bluish green,” said Shankaracharya Vasudvanand Saraswati, who heads the main Hindu monastery in the holy city of Allahabad, where the festival is taking place.

“If the government takes no corrective measures we will have no option but to boycott the (Ardh Kumbh) festival,” he told AFP by telephone.

Billed as one of the world’s biggest human gatherings, the festival started last week with Hindus taking a dip at the confluence of two sacred rivers – the Ganges and the Yamuna

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