Attending The Once In A 12 Years Phenomenon That’s The Kumbh Mela

They say one cannot stop an idea whose time has come. I think it goes the same way for travel.
With a long weekend off work for Maha Shivratri coinciding with the last day of the Mahakumbh and the last book in the Shiva Trilogy just having released and been delivered to me, my trip to the Kumbh Mela couldn’t be better timed, in all its religious and symbolic significance.

To give a little background for those who are interested, the Kumbh Mela is a holy pilgrimage taken by thousands of pious Hindus (And now even others purely for the travel experience) every 4 years to take a dip in the Ganga river, ritualistically, to purge themselves of their life’s sins. Also, the MahaKumbh of this year was a once-in-a-144 years phenomenon due to its astrological auspiciousness. Stats have it the Mahakumbh is the single largest human gathering at one place in the world with over 80 million visitors this year and a group of Harvard students actually camped at the Kumbh to do a case study on the event.

Well, to wash away our sins or not, the prospect of being a witness, nay, a part of a once in a lifetime event of the MahaKumbh happening right in your country, was too much to miss, even though we had already missed the main part of the Kumbh. So Kate, an American friend and I decided to go and join our friend in Allahabad and ‘do the kumbh’ as Kate put it.

After an interesting train journey of close to thirty hours, Kate and I first stopped by at Varanasi- the holiest Hindu city- A religious town based completely along the banks of river Ganga, famous for its many ghats, the evening Arti and its many religious ritualistic rites. Devout Hindus go to Varanasi to spend their last days of life, have a fire cremation by the ghats and ascend onto heaven via ashes of their mortal remains immersed into the Ganga. 

This post is mainly going to be the some of pictures I took in this trip as there’s really nothing more exciting to write about the place and the experience than the place itself.

The Dashashvemedha Ghat  thronging with religious fervour and festivities.
Our boat is fully loaded for a (ganga) cruise along the famous Ghats
The beautiful palace by the Kedar ghat.
Another of the many Ghats
About to immerse my floating Aarti into the Holy Ganga for the Pooja as the enamoured visitors and devotees look on.
The scene at the ghats
The Naga Sadhus bless the devotees 

We left Varanasi the same night and reached Allahabad after a short bus journey of a few hours. After doing some local sightseeing in Allahabad during the day, I decided to go to the Kumbh Mela site in the evening, on the eve of Mahashivratri to take a dip in the Ganga. Pictures from Allahabad leg of the trip follow….

When millions of people have and continue to throng a place, the dust in the air is as palpable as air itself. However it did make for some beautiful blurs in the photos.

The naga sadhu sleeps (in a ganja induced trance?)
When faith of millions of people flows together in the holy Ganga
                       impeccably dressed in their Rajasthani finery.

          Kate and Parth manage to squeeze in a picture when the Kumbh is in full swing


Last day of the MahaKumbh- MahaShivratri. Throngs of people look like confetti from a distance

We all took a dip and then some in Sangam on the last day of Kumbh, on the day of Mahashivratri and I for one, couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time that day.

I’ve never been much of a religious person but I’ve always respected different religions, their beliefs. After attending the Mahakumbh, all I can say is if it takes a religion to inspire millions of people from across the country, across age groups, braving the weather and the exhaustion that travels like this would entail, to converge at one place, bathe in a common water, letting an event of a scale as colossal as the Kumbh, go on almost flawlessly for over 3 months; faith can’t be bad.

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2 Responses

  1. Dev says:

    Its nice
    I went off my old memories when I was exchange student in brazil and portugal when people travel they share such information…

    very nice

  2. Awesome pictures. Hope you enjoyed the mela. 😉