When immortality is on offer, everyone wants a piece, and in case of Kumbh Mela of India, a dip. We know not whether the millions of devotees, who travel to Prayagraj, Haridwar, Nashik district (Nashik and Trimbak) and Ujjain in India to bathe in the holy waters and be part of these impossibly grand ‘melas’ held in rotation over a period of 12 years, seek immortality from the vicious earthly cycle of life and death as promised by legends. What can be said with certainty is that their belief in their Gods, their ‘puranas’ and their faith is unquestionably immortal. And the unwavering belief of the devotees will also be one of tenets Ardh Kumbh 2019 to be held in India from 15th January -4th March 2019.
If you are wondering what else can you expect from this grand gathering in Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad), read below:
Shahi Snan (The Royal Bath)
The Royal Bath starts the mega fair and features saints from different ‘akharas’ (religious sects) take a dip in the river before other pilgrims. The ritual takes place early in the morning, around 4am, amidst roaring chants from the pilgrims waiting in queue for their chance. It is preceded by a procession of saints and their disciples from various ascetic orders. The Royal Bath in 2019 is scheduled for 14-15 January, 4th February and 10th February.
One of the major highlights of the Ardh Kumbh is the religious sermons given by saints and gurus to crowds of people. The sermons cover varying topics from history of the ‘mela’, to its philosophical significance to the basic tenets of Hinduism and religious spiritualism in general. These sermons are held inside special praying halls and are given by some of the most learned men of religion.
Millions of people will travel to Prayagraj to be part of the Ardh Kumbh, many of them choosing in temporary riverside tents for their stay. These tents bring together people from different regions of India and staying in them is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to understand the staggering diversity of India that also extends to religious and spiritual beliefs. The vision of hundreds of tents lit up under the night sky is quite spectacular and one can enjoy a mesmerising view of the city from their riverside tent. Special tents featuring all modern amenities are set for international tourists looking for a comfortable stay.
Sumptuous ‘Langar’ (Communal Meal) Eating ‘prasada’ (sacred offering to God) with devotees in community areas is essential to understanding the true spirit of Ardh-Kumbh. Hundreds of people line up to consume mouth-watering yet simple meals, based in local ingredients. It is humbling to be seeing people from different economical and cultural backgrounds eating the same simple meal in utmost love and faith. Despite having to serve thousands of devotees every day, the management and running of these communal kitchens is phenomenal, largely due to enthusiastic and voluntary participation by devotees.