Lucknow: A large number of devotees converged on the pilgrim towns of Allahabad, Varanasi and Ayodhya on Thursday for a holy dip in the Ganges and other rivers on Kartik Purnima, considered auspicious by Hindus to worship Lord Shiva.

Religious activities along the banks of the Ganges in Allahabad and Varanasi, and the Saryu river in Ayodhya town of Faizabad district in Uttar Pradesh, started early on Thursday.

Ecstatic shouts of "Bam Bam Bhole" and "Jai Ganga Maiya" reverberated in the Sangam --holy confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers in Allahabad, some 200 km from Lucknow.

"It is believed that the dip in holy rivers, particularly the Ganges, cleanses people of sins and helps them attain salvation," Tripurari Dayal, who performed religious ceremonies at the Gau ghat in Allahabad, told reporters.

Devotees also believe that on the auspicious day, gods descend on the earth and reside in sacred rivers and religious ponds.

"Kartik Purnima holds great significance for Hindus as the festival gives them an opportunity to get rid of their negativity by taking the holy dip that showers the blessings of Lord Shiva," Hriday Kumar Lal, a native of Nagpur, told reporters after taking the holy dip at the Dashashwamedh ghat in Varanasi.