The greatest religious-spiritual event on Earth has started last month: the Kumbh Mela. Located in Haridwar, North India, around 700,000 visitors gathered on the opening day, 14 January 2021. I went there a few days after the kick off, and will go again soon.
In India, every twelve years, millions of saints, sadhus, spiritual seers, seekers and Hindu devotees meet at either one of the four designated sacred sites of Prayag in Allahabad, Nashik, Ujjain or Haridwar, along the banks of the holy rivers of India, as part of the traditional gathering of the Kumbh Mela.
The Kumbh Mela Haridwar (14. January – 27. April) is not in full swing yet. Even infrastructure work is still going on. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is fantastic. With a serene buzz in the main ghat areas. As well as contemplative stillness further a way from the city centre.
The Kumbh Mela is an ancient institution and epic event which is astronomically timed and marked by various auspicious ritual dips in the holy river waters. In Haridwar for example, the first Shahi Snan (Royal Bath) in Ganga is on Thursday, 11. March (Mahashivratri), and the last one on Tuesday, 27. April (Chaitra Poornima).
The event is also a platform for religious discourses, cultural activities as well as elaborate Hindu rituals. Integral part are spiritual discussions and satsangs.
Ignored by Western mainstream media, the Kumbh Mela with its many visitors and active participants, reaffirms not only our spiritual origin and faith but above all proves that big public gatherings can take place without any “virus issues”.
Although the typical corona precautions are communicated, just half of the people I saw were wearing masks. No tests are needed to enter the city, suggesting that people take self-responsibility and do what they believe is best, without any authority imposing its views. Thank goddess.
I would even go as far as stating, Don’t dare to come with social distancing and exaggerated fearbased control measures! Don’t mess with spiritually evolved people, Naga sadhus, Aghori yogis & Co. who spend their entire lives on practicing detachment, connecting to the cosmos and embodying self mastery! (Note: I’m not suggesting irresponsible exposure of the population but in view of the past 12 months and proper research, a relaxation of lock down and containment measures is reasonable. Even by mainstream standards, India continues to be among countries with lowest per million covid cases and deaths.)
It was early morning when I arrived in Haridwar. The air chillingly cold with fog still hanging above the ground and covering the sun. Yet, many people took a full body dip in Ganga. Their dedication and determination is admirable.
My path lead me through the old alleyways, passing ashrams, guesthouses as well as cafes and shops preparing to open and welcome customers. After a street bend I suddenly found myself in open-air shaving place. A dozen of barbers with sharpened blades and surrounded by the smoke of incense were readily awaiting clients.
Eventually I came across a small tea stall nearby Ganga offering freshly brewed chai in my favourite clay pots. Hot tea in my hand, I sat by Ganga. What a blessing to be free to move and walk! How lucky to be able to sit here in one of India’s most sacred cities, watch the sun melting the clouds, while delicious tea spreads warmth in my body. After some time, I continued my stroll…
I had a delightful, inspiring and absolutely uplifting day in Haridwar. And with this post I want to share some impressions. I might report again once the camps of the Akharas (sadhu groups) are in place.
„These pilgrims had come from all over India: some oft hem had been months on their way, plodding patiently along in the heat and dust, worn and poor, hungry, but supported and sustained by an unwavering faith and belief. It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon mulitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining.“
– Mark Twain after witnessing the 1895 Kumbha Mela in Allahabad
Each Kumbh Mela attracts millions of pilgrims. The festival authorities said that the largest one-day attendance was 30 million on 10. February 2013, and 50 million on 4. February 2019. Let’s see how many will make it in 2021.
With deep gratitude to India for its spiritual wealth as well as for its ancient tradition in providing soil and space for individuals to find and live liberation and transcendence.
What the sages sought they have found at last.
No more questions have they to ask of life.
With self-will extinguished, they are at peace.
Seeing the Lord of Love in all around,
Serving the Lord of Love in all around,
they are united with him forever.
– Mundaka Upanishad, 3:2:5
All photos © Marina 2021 – No utilisation without my written permission