Kumbh Mela – a confluence of people and ideas
My association with Kumbh began in 2013, the year of the Maha Kumbh at Allahabad (now Prayagraj). That was also about the time when I had first begun actively exploring India for her history, culture, and people. To say the least, it was a moving experience that changed how I viewed the world. I was planning to visit 3 days after the Mouni Amavasya shahi snaan which had broken the world record for the largest congregation of humankind ever, anywhere on Earth, with a whopping 30 million people! The bridge at the Allahabad railway station had collapsed, causing a stampede. I had been home then for my brother’s wedding, and was trying to hide the newspaper on the following day Thankfully, amidst the wedding glee, nobody noticed the news, and 2 General dubba train journeys, a walk through a village, and a tempo ride later I arrived at the Kumbh Mela! Living on the banks of Ganga, I observed and participated in the snaans (ritual baths) at the Sangam, met a whole range of different people whom one doesn’t find in the cities, attended theatre performances on social issues, had conversations with several Sadhus to get acquainted with their diverse views. Kumbh was like a fruit of travel, packing within it the juices of several different parts of India! Those 3 days, more than anything else had reinforced the idea of Roobaroo Walks.
I later went back to Allahabad for the Magh Mela in 2016. There, I met an articulate Pandit Ji and soon found myself engrossed conversing with him about the Mela and his experiences with the place and the people. Half an hour into the conversation, I asked him about Sangam, the name of the place we were at, which is supposed to be a confluence of three rivers. “We can see the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, but where’s the third river, Saraswati? How do you see it or its relevance?” I asked him. To which the man replied: “Look Aayush, half an hour ago, we didn’t even know of each other’s existence, but now we’re talking about all things sundry. We’ve developed an acquaintance, a sort of friendship. What is this conversation between us, if not the Saraswati?” His answer was like the most incredible light bulb moment. It made perfect sense. After all, Saraswati is more than a mythical river; she is the goddess of wisdom! The amazing thing is, Kumbh provides numerous opportunities for such enlightening moments And now the Kumbh is back again! I’d been long awaiting it, mostly from another fulfilling personal journey point of view. However, around November, we started receiving offers from the government to organize heritage walks there. A friend who worked with The Department of Culture, UP, also got in touch encouraging us to do something there since the govt too was looking to promote the place. Incidentally, a friend I had made at the UP Travel Mart earlier in August 2018 happened to be setting a large tent city there and told me how even his guests had started enquiring about the walks. Further, while we were doing our ad campaigns for our event in Lucknow, we were contacted by a woman from Allahabad who organized heritage walks there, proposing that we work together for Kumbh.
There were too many signs to be ignored. It seemed like providence, and as someone who likes to go with the flow, I decided to explore this path and the wonders it holds! My recent 4-day visit to Kumbh has reinforced the idea that we can string together a worthwhile experience there. The Sangam at the Kumbh is not only that of rivers but also that of people, ideas, and perspectives. And we would love to help people experience this gala gathering in all its glory, all its richness, and the whole breadth of its potential. So stay tuned for 3 2-day events at Kumbh