Leaving home for the first time alone for the Kumbh in Prayagraj had me excited as well as nervous!!
I took a morning flight to Varanasi arriving in the City by afternoon and checked into, a very comfortable bed and breakfast place namely Shree Ganesha Palace in Godowlia.
After my arrival in Varanasi I went for darshan of the Lord of the Universe, Kashi Vishwanath Shiva Temple, and one of the twelve ”Jyotirlinga", situated in a crowded area of the city. I had a great darshan and went off for another darshan, of Kaal Bhairav the fierce form of Lord Shiva!
The word "Kaal" means both "death" and "fate". It is believed that even death is afraid of Kaal Bhairav!
The temple is dedicated to Bhairava (Kaal Bhairav), a fierce form of Shiva and wears a garland of skulls and carries a club of peacock feathers.
After darshan spent some time on the busy Dashashwamedh Ghat, the evening Ganga Aarti was just over! I having witnessed this Aarti before, was not very disappointed.
Returned to my hotel, for an early dinner and retired to bed.
On 27th morning I left Varanasi at 7.30 am by car for Prayagraj, reaching by 9.30 am and lucky that I was, the car was allowed in the Kumbh Mela area!
My driver fixed up a really sweet boatman who took me to the Triveni Sangam for my holy dip of faith!
In Prayagraj, hearing the word “Kumbh”, creates the picturesque vision of Triveni Sangam in one’s mind. At the sacred confluence of rivers, Ganga ,Yamuna and the "Gupta" hidden or invisible Saraswati.
Huge multitudes filled with sense of devotion move like waves in the ocean.
The Padma Purana proclaims:
One who bathes and drinks there where the Gangā, Yamunā and Sarasvati join enjoys liberation. Of this there is no doubt."
The Kumbh Mela at Prayag is very different as compared to Kumbh at other places due to many reasons.
The tradition of long-term Kalpvas is practised only in Prayag.The pilgrims who come for this are called Kalpavasi, they are enjoying the benefits of the regular bathing and worship by staying on the banks of Ganga for the entire Kumbh period.
Most of these are from States of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttaranchal, Rajasthan and other states.
Most of the Kalpavasi's living in the minimum facilities are above the age of 50 years!!
Triveni Sangam is considered as the centre of the earth in few scriptures.
It is said Lord Brahma performed the Yajna here for creating the universe.
Prayagraj is called the shrine of pilgrimages, but the most important reason is that the significance of performing rituals and tapas at Prayagraj is of highest among all pilgrimages and provides one with the highest virtue!!
Chanting of vedic mantras and elucidations of religious hymns in the Pandals, proclamations of knowledge, spiritual music, mesmerising sounds of instruments, holy dip in the sangam with utmost devotion fills the heart of devotees with immense joy.
The "Shahi Snaan’ of Akharas,is worth seeing, if you are visiting Kumbh during the Snan dates.
Devout offer prayers at many divine temples after their holy dip exhibiting the greatness of Prayagraj Kumbh.
It is believed that an individual who takes the holy dip in the sacred waters relieves his/her ten generations from the cycle of rebirth, and hence, achieving salvation.
Moreover, it is said that just by providing services to pilgrims at Prayag during Kumbh will help an individual to gain redemption from temptation.
Prayag is visited by tens of millions of pilgrims because of these beliefs.
Saints, ascetics and their followers pay their respect and perform various traditional rituals at Triveni Sangam.
The amazed devotees line up to watch the rituals being performed.
The Kumbh Mela at Prayag takes place for approximately 55 days, spread over thousands of hectares around the sangam area, and becomes the greatest of ephemeral city in the world. Regularity of this celebration continuing since ancient times is unique in itself.
There is no formal invitation to anybody, lakhs of people just come!
I had a very satisfying day at the Kumbh, meeting some Naga Sadhu's, attending some spiritual talks and finally attending the Ganga Aarti before leaving in the evening for Varanasi.
My next morning in Varanasi was taking in the sights and sounds,I tasted the very famous winter delicacy "Maliyo" a sweet cloud of heaven. This soft-as-a-dream confection is available in Varanasi only on winter mornings.
It is made by leaving milk out in the open, the night before, to catch dew drops!!
I walked to Manikarnika Ghat It is one of the oldest ghats in Varanasi and is mentioned in a Gupta inscription of 5th century. It is revered in Hindu religion.
In India, death is considered as a gateway to another life received as a result of our past actions (karma)!
Hindu mythology teaches that the ghat is especially sacred and people cremated here receive moksha!
After spending some time at Manikarnika, I left for my hotel and then to the airport a very satisfied, lucky and happy soul!!