An elderly woman gets a free eye exam at a camp set up to mark B.R. Ambedkar's death anniversary in Mumbai, India, Dec. 6, 2012. Rajanish Kakade/AP
Hindu devotees get ready to bathe near Sangam, at the confluence of Hindu holy rivers of Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati, at the Maha Kumbh festival in Allahabad, India, Feb. 14, 2013. Saurabh Das/AP
Necklaces with lockets bearing the portrait of Bhim Rao Ambedkar, are displayed at a stall near his memorial in Mumbai, India, Dec. 5, 2007. Ambedkar, an untouchable, or dalit, and a prominent Indian freedom fighter, was the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, which outlawed discrimination based on caste. Gautam Singh/AP
Muslim brides and grooms sit beside gifts as they wait during a mass marriage in Bahirkhand, India, Feb. 3, 2013. A total of 108 couples belonging to various religions and castes tied the knot in front of their family members. Mass marriages in India are organized by social organizations primarily to help economically disadvantaged families. Bikas Das/AP
Members of the Gujjar community, a lower caste, perform silent prayers near the dead bodies of community members, unseen, at Bayana town in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan state, India, May 29, 2008. Gujjars blocked major roads, burned car tires, and threw stones at police in several areas around New Delhi. Aman Sharma/AP
Hari Kishan Pippal, a member of India's outcast community once known as untouchables, poses outside his Honda dealership in Agra, India, Nov. 22, 2011. Less than a third of India's 170 million dalits (untouchables) are literate; well over 40 percent survive on less than $2 a day. Infant mortality rates are dramatically higher than among higher castes. Pippal now owns a hospital, a shoe factory, a car dealership and a publishing company. Saurabh Das/AP
A priest ties a ritual thread to a former dalit woman during a ceremony to offer prayers to 15,000 Shivlings, symbolic representation of Hindu God Shiva, during Mahashivratri, or Shiva's night festival celebrations in New Delhi, India, Feb. 23, 2009. The women, who worked as manual scavengers since childhood in different parts of Rajasthan, were once known as 'untouchables.' Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP
Protestors tear an advertisement for the film 'Aarakshan,' or 'Reservation,' in Mumbai, India, Aug. 6, 2011. The protestors say the film speaks against India's affirmative action program that reserves education seats and jobs for the country's indigenous peoples and its dalits who have no caste and have suffered centuries of severe discrimination, and members of other lower castes. Rajanish Kakade/AP
An activist of All India Confederation of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe organizations, a group of lower rank people in India's caste hierarchy, holds a placard as he listens to a leader at a protest rally, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 26, 2012. The rally was held to demanded affirmative action for the lower castes in the private sector by reserving spots for them. Manish Swarup/AP
Members of the Ramnami sect, who tattoo their entire body with the name of Hindu God Ram, embrace each other at an annual meeting in Jai Jaipur Jan 11, 1998. Ramnami belonged to a lower caste and were disallowed from entering Hindu temples which were controlled by upper caste Brahmins. Deprived of seeing and worshipping the various statues of Ram, the Ramnamis tattooed Ram's name on their bodies and the tradition continues to this day. Prakash Hathvalne/AP
Boys get blessings from Swami Nitya Gopal Ji Mahar (r.), a Hindu holyman, after wearing a 'janeyu' or sacred thread during a ritual in the northern Indian city of Allahabad February 6, 2011. The janeyu, which is a thin, consecrated cord composed of distinct cotton strands, is worn to symbolize the coming of age among adolescent Brahmin, or high caste Hindu, males. Jitendra Prakash/Reuters
In a major break from caste system constraints, some of India's Brahmins welcomed a group of India's lowest ranking members to join a Hindu ritual historically closed to them.
Shaikh Azizur Rahman, Correspondent /
February 21, 2013
Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP
Hindus believe a dip in the waters where the Ganges, Yamuna, and mythical Saraswati rivers meet during India’s Kumbh Mela Hindu religious festival cleanses them of their past sins, giving them a clean slate and helping them attain salvation.