A Sadhu or a Hindu holy man walks after taking a holy bath at Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers, on a foggy winter morning, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti festival in the northern Indian city of Allahabad. Reuters

Over 100 bodies have been discovered floating in the River Ganges in India in suspected water burials by impoverished villagers, officials have said.

Many poor citizens of India cannot afford cremation of their loved ones and it is also a custom in the country to not cremate unwed girls.

"There could be around 100 bodies but we are yet to get an exact number," district magistrate Saumya Agarwal told AFP from Unnao district.

"It seems that as the water level has receded in the river, these bodies have surfaced.

"We are trying to figure out the reason. We have sent a team of doctors on the spot to collect the samples from bodies to investigate the case," she added.

The bodies were found near the village of Pariyar in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Villagers spotted a number of bodies on the river bank, where dogs had begun to converge and vultures had begun to circle.

The bodies were too badly decomposed for identification, according to Agarwal, but they would be DNA tested in the hope of discovering where they had originated.

Cremation costs a minimum of $40 (£26.30) which is higher than the average monthly wage for many.