My faith or not! I will recollect Prayagraj Kumbh Mela forever. Even though not my first Kumbh Mela (first was Ujjain Simhastha in 2016), however this time I had amazing and surprised experiences at this mega event. I am a strong believer of taking a holy dip in the Ganga to wash away the sins.
As we know Holy Ganga is the sacred rivers for all Hindu worshippers and worshipped as the Maa Gange (Goddess Ganga) for centuries. River flows from Gangotri glacier of the confluence of Alakananda and Bhagirathi and emerges from the mountains at Rishikesh and touches at Haridwar passing through many cities like Kanpur, Prayagraj (Confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mighty Saraswati), Varanasi (Ancient holy city), Patna and part of the river is bifurcated to Hooghly river and other part of the river flows to Bangladesh.
Kumbh Mela is a mass gathering of Hindus across four places. Ardh (Half) Kumbh is celebrated every six years at Haridwar and Prayagraj. Purna (Complete) Kumbh occurs every twelve years at Haridwar (River Ganga), Prayagraj (Confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mighty Saraswati), Ujjain (River Kshipra) and Nashik (River Godavari). Maha Kumbh occurs every 144 years (12 Purna Kumbh) at Prayagraj. According to Hindu Myth, Lord Vishnu spilled drops of Amrita (the drink of eternal life) at these four places, while transporting it in a kumbha (pot). Kumbh Mela is the largest gathering in the world and the festival of ritual bathing (Holy Dip) at the banks of the river. History says Kumbh Melas were managed by Akharas (Sadhus) and now it’s been administrated by respective governments. Other major events of Kumbh Mela is the Naga Sadhus procession. Sadhus seen with Vibuthi (ashes) pressed on their skin, they follow the ancient traditions and martial arts. Next Purna Kumbh is at Haridwar in the year 2022.
Kumbh 2019 was planned for months and was supposed to be a solo trip. However, the trip turned into a family trip of four people Mom, Aunt, Uncle and me. Aside from Kumbh at Prayagraj, we had also visited Bhubaneshwar, Konark, Puri, Kolkata and Varanasi. We reached Prayagraj without any invitation to take a holy dip in the confluence of the river Ganga, Yamuna and mighty Saraswati.
Day 1 Prayagraj
We boarded the State-owned Volvo bus from Varanasi in the afternoon. Took 3 hours to cover the distance of 125 kms. I had a snoring nap for an hour and woke up to find paddy fields and huge vehicles passing along the highway. We reached the Sangam city just after the sunset. We were hosted by my family’s friend. Took an E-rickshaw from civil lines bus stand and headed to the house, paid a hefty 500Rs for the trip. I was astonished to see the city, so clean and security forces were checking the vehicles and the crowd at every junction. We reached the house and were welcomed with a hot kadak chai by aunt. Discussed about the Kumbh in detail and found out that the Kumbh nagari is around 1 km and the Triveni Sangam is around 3 kms from the house. This made me to grin, as this means I can walk around the mela.
Day 2 Kumbh Mela
I was looking forward to taking a holy dip in the Sangam from the moment I landed in the city. We planned our itinerary for the day. In the chilly early morning weather, I took a hot shower and we all headed together to Sangam for the holy dip. Negotiated for a fair price to travel in boat at the confluence of three rivers Ganga, Yamuna and mighty Saraswati. Also, we saw thousands of migratory Siberian birds along the river. Jal Police patrolling in the river asked us to wear life jacket including the boatmen for the safety of the Kumbh and I was surprised to see each and everyone getting one life jacket in all the boats. We reached the Sangam to take the holy dip in the freezing water and never experienced any river flowing so fast. Also, witnessed huge gathering of people at the confluence. After few rituals, praying for the Maa Gange and blessings from a Sadhu we all headed back to the sand shore and decided to have an early lunch at 12 noon. After the heavy south Indian lunch, everyone decided to take rest at the house, except me.
I had planned to visit few Akharas/akhadas and to meet few Naga Sadhus. Therefore, I headed back to the Kumbh Nagari. I observed that the entire city, its walls, streets and trees were decorated with beautiful paintings. When I entered the Kumbh nagari, I was welcomed by few sadhus chanting among them, they called me to get the blessings. When I got inside, one of the sadhus took my sunglass and asked the price of it. Another sadhu among them asked for 500Rs that I have in my pocket (I had exactly 500Rs in my pocket). I offered some amount as dakshina and left from the place. On the go met few more sadhus sitting around.
I hydrated myself with lot of sugarcane juice and water while taking the Nagari tour. 4 o’clock in the evening one of the akharas opened for the public. Meeting Naga Sadhus should not be missed in the Kumbh fair. Conversed with few of them. Before the sunset I had visited 7 to 8 sectors in Kumbh Nagari seeing around Akharas, Naga Sadhus, Mathas, Satsang’s, food outlets and so much. Later I boarded a free bus to the sector 1 exhibitions ground to attend the cultural event. I walked all the way to the house. I reached just before midnight, and this was one of the long and a truly memorable day of my life.
Day 3 Return to Varanasi
We had return flight from Varanasi to Bengaluru. Mom and aunt made some shopping plans in Varanasi, so we all said thanks to the Friends’ Family for hosting us and left the house at 8 o’clock in the morning. We were so grateful as we could stay during the Kumbh mela with them. Reached the bus stand and boarded the return bus to Varanasi which took 5 hours to cover the distance from Prayagraj.
Prayagraj will have a special place in my heart and I gained lot of wonderful experiences from this event. We had left our footprints on the sands of Sangam and headed back to Bengaluru with pleasant memories of the Kumbh Mela.
Also, we should praise all the hard work by Prayagraj district Administration, UP Police, CRPF, RAF and the security agencies on duty, few unsung heroes of Kumbh mela are Safai workers and the staffs who put lot of efforts making Swachh Kumbh a grand success and made sure they are champions too.