Kumbha Mela , Prayagraj 2019, A curious travellers tale

Kumbh, known all over the world as the largest  peaceful congregation of mankind, is now not just a mere pilgrimage. Its existence has evolved in last few years and its occurrence is beyond religion. Kumbh 2019, has shown a new preface to the whole world,  to a well organised event, which attracted thousands of reluctant tourists, for its enormity, grandeur, and glory.

I myself got attracted to the well-placed commercials by the existing government at every Public place, the eye catching quotes, and beautiful Pictures. And I am happy that I braved through my decision to visit Kumbha, which brought a new perspective of such a holy event.

How did Kumbh got its name and religious importance is not a secret

Kumbh derives its name from the immortal Pot of Nectar, which the Demigods (Devtas) and Demons (Asuras) fought over, described in ancient Vedic scriptures known as the Puranas. It is these Vedic literatures that have stood the test of time, out of which the tradition has evolved into the one that the world now knows as The Kumbh Mela. As it is said in the Hindu mythology, the demigods and the demons conjointly produced the nectar of immortality. The demigods, because cursed, were crippled of fear that eventually made them weak. The task being too sturdy for them alone, the  demigods made a mutual agreement with the demons to complete it in full and share the nectar of immortality in half. It is said that the demigods and the demons assembled on the shore of the milk ocean that lies in the celestial region of the cosmos.

The demigods, being fearful of the demons’ ill intent, forcibly seized the pot with its safety entrusted onto the four Gods – Brahaspati, Surya, Shani, and Chandra.

Demons, after learning that their part of the agreement has not been kept, went after the demigods and for 12 days and 12 nights, the chase continued. Wherever the demigods went with the pot of nectar, fierce fighting ensued. It is believed that during this chase, a few drops from the Kumbh fell at four places – Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik. There is also a prevalent legend that it was actually the demons that were being chased by the demigods for 12 days and 12 nights, during which the drops of elixir of immortality fell at these four places. These four places are since believed to have acquired mystical powers. Because 12 days of Gods are equivalent to 12 years for humans; the Kumbh Mela is celebrated once every 12 years in each of the four places – banks of river Godavari in Nasik, river Kshipra in Ujjain, river Ganges in Haridwar, and at the Sangam of Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati in Allahabad, where the drops are believed to have fallen. Millions of devout, come together to partake in ritualistic bathing and ceremonies to cleanse themselves of all sins.

What did Kumbha mean for me before and after I visited it.

I was one person, who had a bleak religious inclination while visiting The Kumbh 2019. While my religious beliefs did get a little tap now and then, and brought me closer to what mum has taught me over years as a child, Kumbh was more of a curiousity laden show  for me to watch, while, each moment brought a different story, and each capture can be seen hundred ways.

The carefree pilgrims, visiting the mela, their tireless steps, heading to their desired destination, be it crowded ghats to board the boats or the dip in chilled water of at the Sangam.

The mela is a belief for many,  business to hundreds of locals, while, it is an eye opener to many like us, as we discover so many new things, seeing  the unseen. 

I could not see the Akshayavat, thanks to the overwhelming crowd, and also did I miss the lying Idol of Hanumanjee’s Darshan, but my walk through the mela, did excite the curious tourist in me.

Ulta Quila Which is popular doesnot exist

Up and Close With Sadhus and Saints

Its also another high point of the Kumbh  Mela, when u walk around looking at sadhus, dressed( actually undressed also) to attract with their funky looks, busy meditating , or enjoying the gathering of fellow sadhus from other parts oif the country. It seems like a conference of sorts. They live with bare minimum avaialble means, and Some Like Naga sadhus are trained to even live without clothes. The Kumbh had Kinnar Camps( aka Akharas) where the tourists/ or pilgrims visit with belief of obtaining blessings from the eunuchs, who are believed to have strong  powers. At least I felt intrigued and did take their blessings, leaving behind my inhibition of been looked upon as an orthodox .

Each Sadhu, I spoke to had a different reason for taking it the tough way, but eventually they all appeared  to be leading a path of self control and devotion. They spoke simple truths in even simpler way, which can be a just another story to many like me , and a  preaching to others.

Pilot Turned Sanyasi, An international popular baba, with luxurious camps

Beauty of the Mela lies in how it absorbs you, and u live through it in its own unsaid flow, which takes you to the points which I might would have never thought of visiting like the Ulta quila( which has a well and hanuman temple, in the name of existence as the Quila is just in Ruins exists as a hillock), or the Shakti peeth of Allahbad, as they have historical relevance and their mention in religious texts.

What to expect when u reach the mela.

Kumbh is located at the flood plains of the river Ganga and Yamuna, and the Sangam or the confluence of these rivers along with river Saraswati is the holy point, and point of interest to the pilgrims for the holy dip. The mela is spread in the radius of 42 kms, and across two ghats, The Sangam Ghat and the Arail ghat.

Arail Ghat

It is lively yet not too busy, with several camps projecting various cultures and states of India, with foof courts. The Sangam holy dip point is also easily accesible by a boat ride, and the Sangam Ghat can also be visited either on foot ( which is a bit of long distance of about 2 kms) or by e rickshaw and cars. Cars and Rickshaws have limited access.

The tourist camps are best occupied away from the main Sangam Ghat, at Arail Ghat, which helps you to disconnect with the crowd and yet be a part of it.

Sangam Ghat

This part if the mela is, busy and crowded with huge stretch, easily, actually best accessible on foot which gives you the mela feel. The majority of the activity or the devotees gather at and around the  Sangam ghat, with all the religious Camps, and the Sadhu s living at Sangam ghat. The place is best accessible by foot, yet this year E rickshaws have been introduced as a boon for elderly and kids. Every camp has a food court, but do not expect luxury. Its some basic regional food, and local fast food.

The city is closer and approachable from both the ghats, by local taxis.

How is it different on the important Snan Days (Major Holy dip days)

Though I could not collect enough courage to visit the mela during major snan days, but as  I gathered from what my guide had to say, is that these days, see 10-20 times more footfall than what I found was crowded while i visited in a regular day, and the roads are all only accessible on foot.

It must be beautiful as an experience a photography aspect, as all the saints dress up in floral garlands and head towards the Shahi Snan point. And this becomes a picturesque view for eyes and soul, as one can hear the shlokas and prayers, they chant on their journey. My guide shared a little video, which was just a teaser, and this one thing will take me back in the coming years when it occurs again.

Allahbad, as a city of national importance, has some memorials of Jawaharlal Nehru and Motilal nehru, A sacred Cathedral, and the Famous Lalita Shaktipeeth, for its mythological importance, as the last parts of Goddess Parvati fell here in this part of the universe.

The famous Netram kachori at Katra, is another point of attraction, and worth a visit, if the schedule allows, and we visited en route the Kumbh city from Airport. And of course Enjoy the allahbad Amrood, The famous Guava, which is unique in its sweetness and tatse.

Allahbad famous Amrood

Kumbh Mela is a global attraction

We find pride in the fact, that several tourists reach Kumbh Mela from all over the world. The curiosity to see huge mankind at one place, all closely knit with religious beliefs, a search of the ultimate, and a traveler’s foot bring the global tourists to Kumbh. Admiration from the west shall soon bring more in house tourists to Kumbh, in coming years.

A stone is God , and thy  belief makes it one

To me, Ramayana is as true as existence of mankind , and after Kumbh, it strengthens some beliefs about the importance of the Kumbh mela, like the holy waters of Sangam, which is said to have special powers. It may have seen the wrath of the times, and dirtier than before, but thanks to the strong beliefs, that millions of pilgrims and tourists, still look forward for the mighty Kumbh every 12 years at Prayagraj and alternating six yearly at Haridwar.

For more such travel posts on City besides Ganges like Varanasi, read @ https://milesnmeals.com/banarasiyaa-ghats-of-ganges/