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