Kumbh Mela, the World’s Largest Congregation of Religious Pilgrims.

India

by Olivier Sabatier

These pictures have been taken during the ongoing Maha Kumbh Mela (2013). Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage held every 12 years in which Hindus gather at a sacred river for a spiritual bath. Kumbh means a pitcher and Mela means fair in Hindi. The festival is billed as the world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims.

Mauni Amavasya is the big bathing date and traditionally attracts the largest crowds. The day marks the second and the biggest Shahi Snan (royal bath) of this event, with 13 akharas taking to Sangam. Thus, the 10 Feb 2013 was probably the largest human gathering on a single day. Over 30 million devotees and ascetics took holy dip on this occasion.

My travel began on December 25th, 2012. It was the first time I travelled on my own, first time in India, and first Kumbh. Since the very beginning, I have been stricken by the hospitality of Indian peoples. I have never felt unsecure in the Kumbha whereas they were millions of persons. I met many tourists who did not want to reach the Kumbh because they were afraid of the crowd.

Now that I spent seven days there I can advice every one to try by any means to reach Kumbh. Every Indian people has been very welcoming and helpful: offering a tour of the best places to be, a lift to Sangam (the main bathing area) or to the center of Allahabad or just translating the naga baba words. Each time people asked me about how I felt at the Kumbh, I always answered, “300% feel good”.

Next, I will go to Thailand, then Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. I will probably enjoy those countries a lot; nonetheless it seems to me that nothing can equal the atmosphere of the Kumbh. Next meeting is within twelve years.

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