I gave my overview of Maha Kumbh in the last post. How I started my journey from Delhi? How and where I spent my time with ‘Sadhus’? It was full of excitement and new experience. I travelled with Rahul, Jolly and Pratul. Rahul lost his cell phone at the time of entering into Railways Station. We were at the entrance. Someone pushed him back in the crowd and stole his cell phone. He came to know this fact at the very moment. We ran towards the entrance but it went in vain. We could not spot any suspect. The excitement ended for a while. Rahul was smiling and we were thinking “how we should react?” We tried to console him by saying that we will chip in and buy him a new cell phone. Interestingly, we did not… 🙂
Anyway, the train was on time at the right platform! We boarded the train and settled in our berth. I took out my camera and started looking for some shots. Jolly and Pratul started playing cards. Rahul had no option left so he started playing cards too with Jolly and Pratul. Likewise, the excitement and fun started again.
We reached Allahabad on time. It was very busy at the Railway Station. Firstly, we visited Rahul’s uncle and had lunch there. After a long conversation we left for Sangam where the Maha Kumbh was organized. We were greeted and welcomed by Sadhus at Niranjani Akhada. We checked into the camps and had a high tea.
We went for a walk in the night. We had a conversation with Sadhus or Saints and ascetics. It was very well managed in terms of Mela’s sanitary arrangements; good food and water with free ventilation in the camps with convenient conservancy arrangements. Of course! The whole was being kept in order by efficient Police Force. We could see police patrolling unit frequently. At one point of time, I realized that I am on another part of India. Men in orange were the attraction for every camera man. Thousands of shots were not even enough. Likewise, I also captured some shots during the night. I tried to capture it with blur or motion blur purposely.
The next morning was a bit cold. I wanted to capture some shots during the morning. Pratul and me woke up early. Make shift toilets were busy with a queue. Some toilets were choked with human excreta .We had to defecate in the open field.
It gives contrast to the life when you capture the moments during the morning and then you compare it with other day time. I carried my cam there too. It was foggy near the river.
I and Pratul had tea after getting fresh. The tea, lunch and dinner were served by the ‘Sadhus’ every day. We left for sangam (where three holy rivers converge). The sight was full of shots and moments. There were considerable numbers of camera holders. Some of them were professionals and representing the National Geographic Channel, BBC and Indian media. I captured moments there.
It was the day before Shahi Snan. The common people were taking dips, little kids were looking for coins in the water, middle aged people were offering prayer with the help of their spouse or children. Hawkers were selling nuts with Chana by adding lemon in it.
Little kids were posing as lord ‘Shiva and Parvati’. Every camera man was curious to capture these kids. Every time they were captured, and they asked for donation from the camera man. Women were drying their sari after taking holy bath into the river. I spend my whole day there. Jolly and Rahul also joined us later on. At one point of time, Jolly, Rahul and Pratul were into deep thought after having experienced of such an event. Trust me; it makes you to push into deep thought when you are at Maha Kumbh. If you sit silently, you will ask from yourself that we humans are a strong race. What we are and what we were? Some start finding nit pickings in the actions of life and some start finding positive and strong aspect of it.
To Be Continued…
By: Siddharth Malkania
Travel Photographer, Cosmic Travel Hub
Kumbh is one of the social events which are known popularly around the world. There are many reasons which arouse the people’s curiosity to attend it. How come the people can throng into one place for a common purpose to ‘take a bath’? What is the relevancy of a ‘Shahi Snan’? Where the naga sadhus (ascetics) come from to take a bath on ‘Shahi Snan’? Are ascetics different from saints or pundits or pujaris? There are no straight answers for such questions. These questions are unanswered for years. It leads to curiosity to know more about Kumbh and to know more about religion, humanity, power, strength which draws a line in between one society and others.
I had curiosity to know all this too. It took me to visit Kumbh 2013. Every photographer has a wish to attend kumbh once in a life. It is always in his/her wish-list. I made my plans to attend the kumbh at Allahabad on a first ‘Shahi Snan’. It was on 14th Jan. 2013 on the eve of Makar Sakaranti (A Hindu Festival). I have covered several events related to religion; social issues; festivals for the last four years. It has always been unique experience every time when there is a vast variety in Indian culture and religion. It was a new experience with Kumbh too. I spent three days with ascetics and saints at Akhada (camp).
I witnessed crowd or devotees beyond my expectations. I can’t claim the numbers of exact visitors. This year millions of devotees attended Kumbh mela. The administration announces the exact numbers of visitors whenever it is held. It has always been questioned by media. It is very difficult to count the exact numbers. Every time administration finds itself helpless to handle devotees during Kumbh. Unfortunately, two major incidents occurred this year too. First, there was a stampede at Allahabad railway station and second, a fire broke out in camps. Several devotees lost their life in mishap.
It was sprawled over 45 square km. area. Administrations tried its best to make better arrangements. They provided the information in public domain about arrangements. It was like “18 pontoon bridges, a 100-bed central hospital, 240 twenty-bed regional and infectious diseases hospitals, 46,000 toilets of different standards, 4,000 urinals, 770-km long temporary power lines, 50 transformers, 50 generator sets, three additional power stations of 132 KV, 155-km checker plate road, 125 fair price shops, 150 milk sale centres, 40 fire tanks, 20,000 potable water pump facility.”
It was a huge affair with lots of new experience every day. It is very hard to write about it in one post. It is just a start. More stories behind the kumbh have to come yet related to ‘Shahi Snan”, camping with fire, donations to akahadas, cash flow in millions of rupees, spending $4625 for one lunch in a day, nominating Mahamandleshwar and Nagas’ Life!
Next post will come soon…To Be Continued!
By: Siddharth Malkania, Travel Photographer