religious or magic ceremony involving the use of water to immerse or anoint a subject's body. The many forms of baptism (q.v.), ranging from total submersion to a symbolic sprinkling, indicate how certain ritual baths can vary in form even while retaining the same purificational meaning. Ritual baths may be taken while the subject is dressed or nude, in churches or other buildings, in rivers, streams, or ponds; but often the bath and the locus have mutually reinforcing symbolic meanings, as in the tirthayatra (see tirtha), the typical Hindu pilgrimage bath in a holy river or stream, or the upanayana (q.v.), the Hindu rite of initiation before a young man's guru.
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