Friday, January 15, 2010

The 2010 Mahakumbh Mela

There is only path today as all roads to Haridwar, where the 2010 Mahakumbh Mela is being held.

Now what in the world is a Mahakumbh Mela?

So, I decided to pack my bags and find out what this is all about.

The Kumbh Mela is considered to be one of the holiest of all pilgrimages and millions attend and participate in it. And whoever said that the Kumbh Mela was only a mass Hindu pilgrimage, they are sadly mistaken as all kinds of people visit this place.

The Kumbh Fair or Kumbh Mela occurs when Jupiter (Brihaspati) enters Aquarius (Kumbha) and the Sun begins to enter Aries. While Kumbha means pot and Mela means festival or fair, Kumbh Mela means a mass religious congregation.

The main ritual is a dip in the holy Ganges. In addition, activities also include religious and devotional hymns, religious group discussions, feeding of poor people and holy men.

Haridwar, which is set at the foothills of the Himalayas where the holy river Ganges flows into the plains of India, is an extremely devout place for any Hindu.

As the story goes it was during the fight between the Gods and demons that the Gods dropped or spilled some of the holy drops of nectar or elixir (popularly referred to as Amrit) on to 4 places on Earth - Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Nasik. The Mahakumbh Mela keeps rotating among these 4 locations in India. These 4 places are Prayag (Allahabad), where the 3 rivers - Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati meet, Haridwar which is situated along the banks of Ganges, Ujjain that is situated along the banks of Kshipra river and lastly at Nasik, that is situated along the Godavari river.

Thousands of saints, monks, sadhus and devotees, including me, attended the festival. This is the Kumbh Mela and for another one to come around at Haridwar, I would have to wait another 12 years. So I better get moving.

It is something that I always wanted to do. Now I am having second thoughts.

Devotees believe that the water of the Ganges attain nectar-like properties during the Kumbh Mela season in Haridwar. However, I couldn't wash in that water basically because it appeared that I might need a bottle of bleach to wash the dirt off my skin afterwards (no offense meant). Just imagine, that's over 6 million people sharing one large bathroom. Furthermore, whilst bathing, I also led myself to believe that the water cleanses the soul and unknowingly swallowed a bit of this water.

Perhaps there is a force controlling all this as I was given to understand that there was an experiment conducted about the purity of the river Ganges’ water, and on how people still drink this polluted water and not get sick afterwards. I was told that the water-analysts came to a conclusion that the river has some kind of inbuilt disinfectant that cleanse the waters, although experts believe that it is the Ganges’ bed that cleans the water.

So far so good, and I feel stronger with a sense of absolution after shedding off all my sins.

The atmosphere of the scene is like a din, with whistle blowing crowds everywhere. However, it is the sadhus, with their thick dreadlocks and ash-covered bodyguards, that steal the show. Some of these sadhus shed their inhibitions for their clothes and walk in the nude while freely smoking cannabis. But no one looks down upon them as it is the time for brotherhood.

I sometimes wonder how they survive this extreme cold.

According to the Hindu mythology, a bath in these waters of Ganges during this auspicious time makes one's soul immortal and judging by the crowd, I am certain we sure are going to see a lot of immortal souls.

In this ceremony or mass congregation, people come together for the same purpose. All of them utter the name of God and also thank the Buddha.

The main goal of Mahakumbh Mela is brotherhood. People believe that when a whole lot of people participate for the same goal, they are able to spread the feeling of brotherhood easily.

I guess the person next to me, might have been my long lost brother, despite his cleanliness and his fondness for not wearing clothes. I didn’t think about the dirt, flow of water or anything bad – just closed my eyes and took a quick dip and came out as a new man, filled with love. Now that’s Mahakumbh Mela for you - praying to the God and worshiping for the same purpose and subsequent filling us with humanity.

For the millions of people that visit the Kumbh Mela, a dip in the holy waters is absolution and who knows you might run into a long lost brother or experience a powerful and uplifting message of harmony, unity and peace for all humanity