Sunday, March 10, 2013

Net Net Kumbh Mela

The Kumbh Mela is perhaps the worlds oldest religious gathering. But like many (and I say many, because there are some which are 'exclusive') religious gathering, especially of Indic faiths, you can be a part of it regardless of whether one is a believer or not.

One can come down as believer, a pilgrim, a wanderer, a learner or just for the experience. What we observed was that while there are clearly, very big crowds on the 'big' days, the days that we were there (between the last two big days and towards the end of the mela), the crowds were quite manageable.

The arrangements were good. We feared the worst, in terms of it not being clean and unhygienic, but frankly, even at the fag end of the mela, the place was none the worse for wear despite a few million having come and gone.

I am not a fan of crowds, especially unorganized ones and I even avoid concerts and stadium because of this, but the mela is huge - and absorbs quite a few people (and that is an understatement).

Overall, people are helpful, both government designated folks and volunteers and people who are a part of it. Perhaps, it is just a feeling of community.

How to get there? There seem to be many ways. We flew down to Lucknow and took the next available bus to Allahabad. But there are trains (if you can manage to book a ticket sufficiently in advance) that get you nearly all the way upto Prayag. There are cabs from Lucknow as well - which is how some people I know made it. Chartered buses are also seen. Allahabad and Varanasi also have airports. So, clearly, there are many ways to get there. We were a bit confused as to the best way and since we did not have enough time, we chose the Lucknow route - could have been much easier on the pocket had we booked in advance. But well, sometimes, planning does not work - you just have to decide to get up and go.

And yes, if you make it to Allahabad (Kumbh Mela or not), do visit, Varanasi (Kashi) - the oldest living city in the world with a rich tradition of 3500 odd years. And for us atleast, Varanasi was a very moving experience.

Is it worth it? In one word - Yes. Though as always, YMMV. Signing off on the Kumbh series of posts. Regular broadcast resumes...

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