Three years back, I experienced my first Kumbh Mela on the banks of river Ganga at Haridwar, where I spent most of my time with the Naga Sadhu’s of Juna Akhara. It was fun. My friend also got chased by one of the Naga Sadhu when he tried to take his portrait secretly.
Now after three years, I made sure to visit the largest human gathering in the world. The Maha Kumbh Mela at Allahabad. Unlike the regular Kumbh, Maha Kumbh is celebrated after 12 years. According to the estimates, around 30 million people visited Kumbh on 10th Feb, 2013. The interesting fact is that the 5 acre venue on the confluence is submerged in water during the non dry months. The state government constructed a huge tented township loaded with all important amenities, including a makeshift Dominos Pizza stall.
So the first night when we reached, my friend Pankaj Sahu, who works with the local press, who is famous among all the Naga Sadhus, took us to one Sadhu of Niranjani Akhara who has taken a vow of not sitting. He ordered his disciple, an Aghori Sadhu (Aghori Sadhus are a sect of Sadhus who are known for their cannibalistic practices. They live in cremation grounds and some of their rituals include smearing cremation ashes on their bodies and using human bones and skulls for decoration.) to make tea for us. We sat together and sipped tea while he talked about the story when he impressed his guru who slapped him once for not having the knowledge of cooking. He learned it and invited him to one cremation ground and cooked food for him on the burning pyre wood. This guru was impressed and so was I. The poor Aghori Sadhu was getting a dose of abuses by the standing Naga Baba after every few moments. He refilled our disposable plastic cups with tea as we talked more about his amazing practices.
I spent most of time at the Sangam, the confluence of three rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati(Mythical). This is the place where people take a dip and get most of their belongings stolen. According to a Hindu belief, taking a bath in river Ganga washes away your sins. So just imagine how deep the cleansing would be if you take a dip in the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. That too during the Maha Kumbh Mela. You can take a dip each for all your family members. If thats not enough. You can also take the water mixed with soul cleansing properties of milky brown colour to your home. If you don’t have a container, then also there is no need to worry. Just wash your worries away with the sins as you can buy it from the hawkers being chased away by the Police at the Sangam. You can buy a pet bottle of 1 litre to a family size jar of 20 litre and fill it with the super pure milky brown coloured water.
Sangam was the hub of all interesting activities of the Maha Kumbh. People taking dips in water, some even forcing their children in the water. The most interesting were the lost and found announcements. Even the regular announcements by the police were full of humour. They were personalised to the taste of the innocent public, who kept losing their stuff and complaining about it to the police. It was also a little disturbing to watch the poor river being burdened with the weight of faith. A man after taking a bath throwing his underway in the holy river and folding his hands and announcing, “Jai Ganga Maiya! (Hail mother ganges!)”. How will a river programmed to wash your sins wash your underwear? Next to that man were people drinking the water, brushing teeth with it, many throwing religious wastes.
Though I couldn’t gather the courage to even touch the milky brown soul cleansing water, it was amazing to be the part of worlds largest gathering of humanity.