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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Kumbh #, 2013, Allahabad/Prayag - The Big One

Well, it was Kumbh Mela time again. Kumbh Mela is a religious congregation that happens once in three years. Four places: Haridwar, Allahabad, Nasik, and Ujjain host the Mela in rotation completing a 12 year cycle of 4 Kumbhs. All these places have a river or two running along, and a dip in the river during the 45 odd days of the festival is considered to be extremely auspicious by "pious" Hindus. I attended the previous Kumbh at Haridwar in 2010, and was naturally drawn to the Allahabad Kumbh, because it is the only Kumbh considered to be the Maha Kumbh (Big daddy sorts). Joining the excursion was my friend and fellow MadM trekker Randeep, and a friend of his. This friend dropped out 2 days prior to the trip, because he had forgotten all about it! Can you believe it?

Anyway, it was just the two of us, and that's usually more than enough - so, I did not complain. We packed our bags from Bangalore and left for Lucknow airport, 200 odd kilometers from Allahabad. Lucknow greeted us with a cool 20 degree C weather, and I felt so at home. We headed out to a hotel in Alam Bagh, and did the preparations for the next day's journey by just plonking on chairs and ordering stuff. Dinner was yum that night from a place called Tundey Kabab. I was almost tempted to give the Kumbh a miss, and eat chicken/mutton kababs there all through the next three days. Don't miss it, if you ever go to Lucknow.

Rakesh, our cab driver from the airport transit, picked us up around 9 in the morning, and the sojourney to Allahabad started.

We stopped at  Rai Bareilly for breakfast. Rai Bareilly means "Shit Hole" in Sanskrit (from what I saw). Come to think of it, this is the powerful Gandhi family's political bastion for decades. The pic below is the focal point of the town with two flea-infested restaurants.
Rakesh was even more optimistic. He said this place was good, coz the interiors of the town are even worse off. I can imagine. But this town seriously needs a good eatery, if not a Pizza Hut.
 

After an aalo paratta/roti cum chicken masala breakfast, we headed out to Allahabad, only to be stopped for 15 minutes by a tree that had fallen on our path.
The path turned scenic after a few kilometers, with fields of mustard sprouting their yellow flowers swaying in the breeze, on either side of the road.
 Hum mustard bo chuke sanam!

We reached Allahabad by around 2 in the afternoon. Allahabad has another name - Prayag (meaning confluence). It is the meeting point of two of India's biggest rivers - Ganga and Yamuna. It is the only one among the Kumbh cities/towns to boast about more than one river - 3 actually. Ganga, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati.
Graffiti urging to keep the Ganges river clean.

My Kumbh friend from 2010 had come to Allahabad for one of the main bathing dates (There are 7-8 main bathing dates.) a few days back had to stop his cab 15 km before the ghat and walk all the way. 30 million people (yea, 3 crore) took the holy dip that day. Thankfully, we did not encounter that much rush, and found accommodation in a hotel on the outskirts of the city. It was the last room available, a small room, with a makeshift glass partition for the restroom (not a virtue, a necessity). The room had its plus but we were blissfully unaware of it then. 
Here's a stereotype Kumbh poster at the hotel reception.


We took some rest, and then decided to check out the Prayag (Sangam) place. The last big dip was the next day. Cops stopped our cab 2 km from the Prayag, and we took a cycle rickshaw to reach our destination. Here's Randeep with our rickshaw driver, Anil (Before). We were in no hurry to reach anywhere.
 
Here's Randeep with our rickshaw driver, Anil (After). As I was saying, we were in no hurry to reach anywhere. The blur explains my stance. :)

 Anyhow, we managed to reach the riverside by around 5.30. A family performing pooja.

 The priest.
 The aftermath.
 Tiger.
 Tiger glaring at the camera.
By this time, Randeep struck up a nice conversation with this fellow. We agreed on a few things. Like, no one  is vegetarian. Breast-fed human beings are supposedly non-veg to start with - blood becoming milk and stuff.


Skepticism starting to show on his face. Btw, mark the makeshift accommodation behind him.

 I went off to click pics. I wished all my friends were with me at that point in time.

I went back and rested in the make-shift tent and dozed off. I woke up when there was a bit of a commotion. A bunch of kids had joined the Satsang, and the conversation drifted to Bhishma and morality and all that. The dogmas came back to haunt us.
We had a healthy/brief argument about the concept of virginity. And also about whether Bhishma was wrong in abducting girls. I got bored after a point and walked off with the kids to buy them candies. 
 And when I came back, I saw heaven.

There are some discussions that yield no results. Convinced of that, we left our big brother in his trance and walked back. Randeep was totally disillusioned by the crap talk.
Like Randeep, I was also a bit lost. And there were a few more things that disturbed me. Like poor quality of the river fish.
 But then some other things compensate. They always do, don't they? What's in a name? A lot!

Tomorrow, we go for the big dip in the Ganges.Maghi Purnima Snan, here we come!
Part 2 can be found here.

8 comments:

  1. Aftermath photo is missing.....come out with part II fastaa!

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  2. Great information, that you for sharing with us. Manifest at these places and times that somehow assists human beings to more fully experience spiritual immortality and divinity. The fact that hundreds of millions of people coming from the most ancient and sophisticated philosophical and metaphysical system on earth have for thousands of years believed this to be true suggests that an awesome power is indeed present at the Kumbha Mela. Who give up their bodies after purifying themselves at Prayaga by bathing at the confluence of these two rivers Ganga and Yamuna the two wives of the ocean. Hindu Culture

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