For the first 5 days in India I didn’t sleep in a real bed or take a shower. This wasn’t the plan, but then again I didn’t have one. My sleeping spots included the bunk of an overnight train (the first of many of my trip) and the floor of the thatched hut of our new friend Swami G. I never learned our Swami’s true name, but I did find out he had a website, it didn't matter that he spoke no English. I was just happy to have anywhere to sleep in the middle of the largest human gathering on earth, the Maha Kumbh Mela.
This 55 day long version of the Maha (main) Kumbh (pitcher) Mela (gathering/fair/congregation) Hindu religious festival takes place once every 12 years and saw 120 million people this year. The short version of the story is that for 12 days and nights (12 human years) the demigods and demons fought over a pitcher full of the nectar of immortality that was churned from the milk ocean that lies in the celestial region of the cosmos. During the battle, drops of the nectar fell to Earth.
Today, the rivers where these drops landed are considered sacred and millions come to wash away their sins and attain a short cut to nirvana by bathing at the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati Rivers during this auspicious time (determined by astrology). The festival is nearly a month and a half long, and during that time there are certain “highly auspicious” bathing days. We happened to be there for the most auspicious day, along with 30 million other people. A truly once in a life time experience no matter if we had a place to sleep or not; we could do as the pilgrims did. Of course there’s so much more to be said, but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
|This was the scene as we crested the hill walking |
from the train station. "Sangam" means confluence.
|A religious holy man was later spotted lounging on this spiked |
chair while being pulled over a burning fire.
|Our swami who let us sleep on his floor, distributing free biryani (spicy) rice to pilgrims.|
|My travel companions, both from Oregon, both met on the road not known to me from America.|
|A view of a few of the 18 temporary floating pontoon bridges.|
|Taking the holy dip.|
|View from my "bed".|
|Stuck in a holy parade.|