Kumbh Mela, Allahabad, India 2013.. When the riverbanks turned into effervescent, mythical and mystical religious pageant of million voices, chiming temple bells, strains of prayers and discourses against the backdrop of rising sun.
Allahabad is my hometown and in 2013 I joined nearly 120 million, from all over the world, congregating to purify themselves with a dip in the confluence or sangam of Ganga, Yamuna and the invisible Saraswati.
Mark Twain, American author, had visited the Kumbh at Allahabad in 1895 and like him, I too, marvelled at “…the power of a faith, that can make multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination….”
According to Hindu mythology the origin of Kumbh Mela centers on the legend of Samudra Manthan, (churning of the waters), in search of the pitcher or Kumbh filled with holy nectar or amrita. The Devas (gods) and Asuras (evil people) both claimed the pitcher and to prevent the Asuras from drinking the holy nectar of immortality one of the gods flew away with the pitcher and in process four drops fell on earth, Hardwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nasik, deeming them holy places.
The Kumbh Melas are held every 12 years in rotation: River Ganga in Haridwar; the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati at Allahabad; the Godavari at Nashik and River Shipra at Ujjain (Central India). The Melas stretch over two months with auspicious bathing dates, though one can take a dip in the sacred waters everyday, to purify themselves of worldly sins.