MahaKumbh Mela, the world’s largest spiritual gathering is a sweet sight for the sore eyes. MahaKumbh Mela acted as a perfect gateway as I needed to pack off from the rumble jumble of the urban landscape.
Anxious and excited I was for this one of a kind trip. Myself and one friend decided to take this trip, we both had our reasons. Consciously we went without any prior accommodation booking (although it is not recommended, always good to have an advanced booking). We wanted to experience the situation as it is and were even prepared to sleep under the wide magical sky and experience cold winters of Allahabad. Strange eh!! 🙂
The cold, misty morning of Allahabad welcomed us with wide open arms. All I could see was swamp of people on the platform and at the exit of the station gate. The station acted as a sleepover platform for those who have come from far off places with few survival items in the bag.
My habit of talking to local rickshaw guy came in handy, soon we stuck a chord. The old man took us to a decent enough accommodation and he promised to take us to the nearby Ghat the next morning for a boat ride. Of-course he would have made some money from it, but that is alright. Better than spending on junk food back home.
Passing through the tight lanes of Allahabad sitting on the tightly build rickshaw, we reached the Ghats. One hour boat ride in the river Ganges in the early hours was a terrific idea. The mother Ganges was revealing herself slowly as we pierced through the morning fog. We happened to have our first encounter with Siberian migratory birds (as we were told, not confirmed).
(Siberian Migratory birds)
First day was sort of initiation into the atmosphere of the great MahaKumbh Mela. Spread across the vast landscape, it was a city recreated within the city. Fantastic arrangements by the authority although it becomes difficult to manage the large hordes of crowd who are coming from far off places with all the family members including children who don’t know what exactly is going on around them. In this chaotic mad rush there is always a chance of small children getting lost and that what happens there. The famous Bollywood saying “Kumbh ke mele mein kho gaye” (lost in Kumbh Mela) came from this experience only.
(Family gathers @ Ghat)
My eyes just could not fathom the vast landscape and magnitude of this amazing event. It was an eye opener seeing all the gathering there, driven by blind faith and thousands of years old belief system which has been passed down from one generation to another.
There are two things every visitor looks to do at the MahaKumbh Mela, one is taking a dip in the holy waters of River Ganga and second is chance interaction with the secretive tribe of Naga Babas
and I was fortunate enough to manage to do both.
I was hoping from deep inside to meet the dreaded Naga Sadhus and my wish was fulfilled. I had a chance interaction with not one but two Naga babas. I was so frightened initially but once the conversation started it was a mutual respect from thereon. These freak Naga sadhus are stuff of legends and are main attractions of the MahaKumbh Mela. Sadhus in the Mahakumbh mela are used to have media personalities and foreign nationals which makes them kind enough to have a conversation but sometimes they do seek monetary benefit in return for a photograph or two. Here I feel foreign tourists are to blame as they have propagated this culture.
Next destination, Varanasi, the oldest living city in the world is an experience in itself. The city offers so much more than the usual evening ritual performed everyday without fail at the shores of mother Ganges. As we experienced the tight lanes of the city, we faced the classic case of mistaken identity. We were welcomed as discovery channel guys while roaming in the narrow lanes of Varanasi. I have not been able to figure out why. But it felt cool and nice even for a short while.
(With Naga Sadhu)
After trying local delicacies, experiencing narrow by lanes and traffic snarls of the oldest living city we decided to visit Sarnath to give oil to the rugged mind. Sarnath was complete in contrast. Not much tourist, one can wander without any fear of car running you over. People are easy-going and less cunning as compared to the more touristy places around the country. Thankfully travel agents think it is not worth it. Only local crowd and delegations from Buddhist centric nations visit the place.
(Monastery @ Sarnath)
Returned back to Delhi with peace in mind and a satisfaction of interacting with the ever so illusive Naga sadhus. I can easily say that the visit to Varanasi and Sarnath was raw and intense if nothing else.
But the mind was always going to the after effects of this mass bathing in the river Ganges. The huge leftover by the in sensitive people not caring enough for the mother Ganges. If we are not able to save Ganges there will be no MahaKumbh Mela, no spiritual gathering of this magnitude. I will definitely dig deep on this in the future posts.
Allahabad and Sarnath are a must visit on any traveler’s diary especially in the winter season. Summers can be quite demanding on mind and body. Both the places are easily accessible via rail route and flights from the national capital of the country, Delhi.
There is much more to experience in Allahabad other than the evening aartis at the Ghat, the local food, culture and the handloom industry located in small rooms are surely not to be missed by the inquisitive soul.
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