The smell of burning joss sticks; echoes of sadhus and Babas chanting prayers; millions of people gathering to take a dip in the holy water; this is how Kumbh Melas look like. Having great importance for Hindus, Kumbh Mela in India is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm over a stretch of 2 months. This largest religious gathering of the world which has also been recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage is held at four different places (in rotation of 3-4, 6 and 12 years) and can certainly be a sight to relish. The Kumbh that takes place in every 6 years is called Ardh Kumbh, which in literal translation would mean Half Kumbh. Unlike Maha Kumbh (once in 12 years), Ardh Kumbh is only held in only two places in India, one being Allahabad (Prayag) and the other Haridwar. In 2019, one has the chance to be the part of the Ardh Kumbh Mela that will be held in Allahabad, an important destination for Uttar Pradesh tourism seated on the bank of Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati confluence. Devotees take a dip in the holy water at the confluence as it is believed that doing so washes away one’s sins and brings the person one step closer to Moksha (freedom from Sansara (world)). Other than the dips and a large gathering, Allahabad Ardh Kumbh Mela 2019 is likely to have a lot for you to see and experience ranging from the sight of bare body Naga Sadhus smeared with ash to the royal bath to joyous evening aartis. So, if you’re coming to India to witness the Ardh Kumbh Mela, this blog can be the travel guide that can help you prepare your to-do list.
According to Hindu Mythology, a fight broke between gods and demigods during Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean). This Manthan was done to extract out the ambrosia (Amrit) from the depth of the ocean. After the extraction was complete, the ambrosia was filled in a Kumbh (pot). To seize the Amrit from the demons, Garuda (vehicle of Lord Vishnu) took the pot and flew away. During his flight, he spilled drops of the drink on earth at 4 places namely, Haridwar, Ujjain, Prayag (Allahabad), and Nashik. Making these places as well as the rivers flowing in the cities holy. The Kumbh Mela is said to have originated after this incident and is held ever since with a lot of zeal.
Ardh Kumbh Mela 2019 is going to be held when the Jupiter will be in Aries, the Sun and Moon in Capricorn; or Jupiter is in Taurus and the Sun in Capricorn. This celestial setting will next be seen from 15 January to 4 March in the city of Allahabad.
With a lot of activities to savor; chances are you might miss out on something or the other. But above all the things there are few that could interest and attract you a little more than the others, such as:
The Royal Bath or the Shahi Snan or the Rajyogi Snan is the holy bath that is taken by the Saints of different Akharas (religious groups) in the sacred river before any other Hindu pilgrims. It is one of the rituals of the fair that the common people can take the bath in holy rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati confluence after the holy men in these akharas have taken a dip. The devotees wake up as early as 3 a.m to que up to take their morning bath and wait until the sadhus take the dip and once they are done with their bath then only the common people are allowed to take the dip. The moments of Shahi Snan are definitely worth capturing in the lens, following are the bathing dates for the upcoming Ardh Kumbh Mela:
Bathing Dates of Ardh Kumbh Mela 2019:
1st Shahi Snan: 14/15 January
2nd Shahi Snan: 4th February (This is the main Shahi Snan and it falls on Mauni Amavasya)
3rd Shahi Snan: 10th February
Akhara is the place of meeting for the religious groups, it is here that the sadhus carry out the religious practices. These saints are said to be followers of Lord Shiva and Vishnu, hence there are Shaivite Akharas (dedicated to Shiva) and there are Vaishnavite Akharas (dedicated to Vishnu). The holy men that are part of these groups are often seen with matted hair, some even bare body, and some donned in saffron clothes. Ardh Kumbh will be the perfect opportunity to learn about these religious groups and capturing them in lense as some of them make for unique pictures.
The Sadhus and Saints being the most integral part of Kumbh Mela increases the holiness of the fair with their presence. The devotees can listen to the speeches of these people in order to gain spiritual enlightenment. Amongst the several Akharas and the group of Babas (saints), there are some that catches the eyes the most like:
Nagas: These are the saints who wear no clothes with ash smeared all over their body and have long matted hair. Their body is constantly exposed to the extremity of the Himalayas where they reside for the most part of the year, due to which they become resistant towards the weather change. For a long time, Naga Babas have been the favorite of photographers for being different from others, they are mostly quiet and are amongst the first to take the Royal Bath, which we discussed earlier.
Urdhwavahurs: This group of holy men practices spiritual activities and they can be recognized as they too have bone-thin body structure. These religious men perform rituals while making their bodies undergo several austerities.
Kalpvasis: This group of saints resides by the river banks and spend hours meditating and performing spiritual activities. They keep themselves clean by bathing numerous times in a day in the river water.
Shirshasinse: This group of saints is very different from the others and the thing that separated them is their way of meditating and sleeping. They meditate while standing on their heads and sleep in an upright position taking a support of pole or a wall.
Parivajakash: These saints never speak as they have taken the oath to keep quiet. They carry a bell and ring it all along to tell the people about their presence.
Satsangs are a very important part of the Ardh Kumbh Mela. Devotees sit for hours and listen to the Sadhus who preach. During the mela there are a lot of ashrams and halls where people can offer prayers. One can go and sit inside if they want to hear what the priests have to say about Hinduism and spiritualism as these saints have a good knowledge of religion. One can even interact with them and take pictures of them with their permission. Though they don’t talk much but if you will be respectful and humble you can get the permission of photography.
The city of Allahabad never sleeps during the Ardh Kumbh Mela. The daytime can be crowded but one can enjoy the beautiful city view from the Triveni Ghat in the evening. The calm river, the cool breeze; and glittering ghats, everything is so pleasing that you would not want to miss it.
Attending the Kumbh Mela is really fun, but when it comes to accommodation; staying in the camps can give you some memories for the lifetime. These camps are set up for the Sadhus and people who prefer staying near the bathing area. These tents are just a few km away from the ghats. Living in these tents give you the fun of interacting with people from different regions; knowing their lifestyles and many other things. Bringing your camera along will be quite handy as there are many who would love to be photographed. Since Kumbh Mela has gained fame worldwide, special camps are set for the international travellers, so that they can enjoy the authentic feel of the Kumbh Mela. Special tours are operated for them to greet the devotees who have come to take a dip in the waters of Allahabad.
You would not want to miss the mouth-watering langars (communal meals) and prasads (sacred offerings) that are given to the devotees as well as the sadhus during the Mela. There is a community area made for eating the meals. Here people enjoy the delicacies which are served free of cost. Though, it is a good idea to try these dishes but even if you do not plan to, you can certainly visit the hall and can at least relish taking pictures of the food variety and interacting with people.
Having a travel guide for Kumbh Mela is almost a necessity since it is one of the major events of India and the biggest religious festival in the world. We hope this blog served this very purpose. For more ease, you can choose to travel with Tour My India as we offer some of the best pilgrim tour packages. Drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +91- 9212553106 to find the most suitable Ardh Kumbh Mela 2019 tour package.