Kumbh Mela in India is considered to be one of the largest human gatherings on the planet. This year I chanced to visit the Kumbh Mela which is held this year Allahabad which is also known as Prayag Kumbh Mela. Kumbh Mela observed this year at Allahabad was also special as it was the Poorna Kumbh Mela which is observed only at Prayag every 12 years.
There are 4 places in India where the Kumbh Mela is observed. Each pilgrimage takes place after the gap of 3 years. As per the Hindu legends of Samudra Manthan (which has been graphically depicted inside largest Hindu Temple Angkor Wat in Cambodia) gods and asuras participated in the churning of ocean of Milk during the creation of universe. During the churning, nector or the amrita (drink of immortality) appeared from the sea.
Fearing that it will give immense power to asuras, Hindu god of preservation Vishnu stole the nectar and fled from the scene. When the asuras realized this they chased first Vishnu then Garuda to whom Vishnu had given the nectar to carry forth. In the fight that ensued 4 drops fell from the Kumbha (pot which contained nectar). These are the 4 places (Prayag in Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik and Ujjain) where Kumbh Mela is celebrated every 3 years in India with each place hosting the event after a gap of 12 years.
I took a train from Delhi (Prayagraj Express) to Allahabad and arrived there early in the morning. My first detour before reaching the Sangam (confluence of Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati) at Prayag was to Khusro Bagh. This garden surrounds 3 important tombs belonging to Mughal Era. The park surrounds the Tomb of Khusrau Mirza, eldest son of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. There are 3 stunning sandstone mausoleums which were designed by Aqa Reza, a principal artist in Jahangir’s court. Besides the emperor son, other tombs inside the Khusro Bagh in Allahabad belong to Shah Begum who was Khusrau’s mother and emperor’s first wife and that of Nithar Begum who was Khusrau’s sister.
During the revolt of 1857, this place was used as the headquarters of the sepoys under Maulvi Liyakat Ali who took charge as the Governor of liberated Allahabad. All the structures are a visual delight which were emblematic of the exquisite Mughal Architecture.
After spending close to an hour exploring the park and mausoleums exteriors (sadly the gates of all the tombs were locked so I couldn’t explore the inside architecture and cenotaphs) I headed towards Prayag to do what I had come for: attend the largest human gathering on the planet, the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad.
At Kumbh Mela there are some auspicious days which are considered to be of significance to take a tip at the confluence as per Hindu legends. On those days the gathering of people are at their peak and these days are referred to as Shahi Snan. My travel date was not one of those days and that was one of the reason the Sangam was not too crowded. I do spotted a few Naga Babas (naked hermits) who come out to bath only on Shahi Snan dates. I stayed at a Camp in sector 14. The space allocated for the mela is divided into different sectors where devotees and travelers could find accommodation and ghats for bathing.
I took the bath next day at Triveni Ghat which is the most vital bathing Ghat and the point where Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati meets. I took a boat and arrived at the confluence. I also collected water in containers as there were several requests from friend and acquaintances to bring holy waters of Ganges which is used on purpose of Puja and for purification by Hindus.
It was a fine experience, one of its kinds as I finally attended one of the most important Hindu Religious Gathering. I was more of a pilgrimage as I had to make arduous journey from the point where the vehicle was parked till the Sangam and then on to our Camp but it was worth it. To witness such large gathering composed of all age groups which are bound together by religion is an awe inspiring experience. To watch old people – some as old as 90 – taking long walk to Sangam is a humbling experience too. This Hindu Event is one of those celebrations which should be in the Bucket List of every traveler who love to explore culture and traditions of the places they travel to. Definitely recommended!