“Mind Boggling” is a puny word to describe the grandness and scale of Maha Kumbh 2013 at Allahabad, India. You would have read/seen countless accounts describing the world’s largest fair (Maha Kumbh Mela). I however will stray away from the usual narratives about the camps, groups, holy men (shadhus), divine experiences or miracles and put forth a much grounded experience which kindled me from the core.
At Kumbh, it is all about THE experience. Nothing in the entire world can substitute it. No words can describe the divinity of the event and one must visit the fair to experience it. I am usually put off by crowded places and generally try to avoid them and even the Kumbh was not an exception for me. It was only when I boarded the overnight train from Delhi that the excitement finally started to hit me. The train journey was surprisingly quite comfortable, which usually isn’t the case. We reached early morning at around 6 A.M and headed straight for the guest house. Our trip was short as we had planned to return the same night. Not spending even one night in the camps is something that I regret now.
When countless people congregate and pray together for months with the sole purpose of uplifting themselves, when each one of them is only there to take a dip in the holy waters. It would even make an atheist lose his/her beliefs. The magnitude and scale of the event cannot be gauged by just viewing some pictures and reading news reports. It has to be felt personally. We headed for the Sangam at around 10 A.M and I must mention that it was extremely scenic to say the least! The vast river banks on both sides were covered with just tents and innumerable heads! We took a short and serene boat ride to the actual place of Sangam (where Ganges and Yamuna merge). This is where we spent the next hour cleansing our sins by immersing ourselves in the holy waters of the Ganges and… it was not just a usual river bath; it was a divine bath. Mildly cold water was compensated by the warm sunlight and each dip in the river rejuvenated every atom of the body. We headed back to the shore and on the way fed some migratory birds from Siberia! One couldn’t help but wonder; how lucky are these birds to feed on those waters all the way from Siberia!
The day had passed quite well, much better than my expectations and it was about to get better. In the evening we attended the Ganga Aarti. The backdrop of the aarti was such that one could view the entire Kumbh area down below. It was a real treat to watch the entire area lit at night. Standing at that vantage point, the night view looked AMAZING. In my opinion, it was the best place to watch and realize the grandeur and enormity of the event. Hats off to the organizers and people who made it possible!!
Yes, the river bath was wonderful and the evening Ganga aarti was a great way to end the day…but here came a realization that things should not be taken for granted and our each and every living moment must be well appreciated and thanked for. It came at place where I was least expecting it, after all the day at the Kumbh was over and we were at the Allahabad railway station waiting for our train to arrive at the platform. Sitting next to us was a family supposedly from one of the remote villages of India. They looked extremely poor and had come with paltry home prepared meal. My attention fell on this old man from the family, who after many attempts managed to open his own meal box. Two measly Chapattis and some mixed vegetable was all which he had in front of him for dinner. He washed his hands with a little water, closed his eyes, said a prayer, bowed his head and then took the first bite. I have seen many homeless people on the streets, many without proper food and clothes but this man’s action left me stumped. It literally brought tears to my eyes. Had the siren from the approaching train not distracted me, I would have definitely started crying.
I couldn’t help but ponder over the fact that how superficial urban life has become. We want the best of things at our disposal and are in a continuous race to achieve them at any cost. It is a pity that we do not even pause to appreciate what we already have. Things we already have are simply taken for granted. This man appreciated the importance of whatever little he had and most importantly thanked god for it. He did not fret or looked upset, but rather seemed happy and content.
I am sure that each and every one, who visited the Kumbh have their own experiences but for me; no matter how trivial; It was Maha, Maha enough to instill a change and strengthen my beliefs.