David Jennings’s description of Kumbha Mela sounds like it’s a hippie gathering.
Over the bridges by the tens of thousands, shouting, chanting, singing, thrusting spears and tridents into the air, some painted orange, some wrapped in pink or saffron robes, some naked, some wearing crowns and capes, some bearded, some with swords, some with long matted hair, some adolescent, some old enough to have seen British rule, barefoot and hobbling forward, possessed by some mysterious mystical glee, down, into the Ganges they come.
Kumbha Mela is a Hindu festival, when tens of millions of pilgrims go to bathe at the Sangam – the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers. Pilgrims are intended to wash away their sins. Maha Kumbha Mela is considered to be the most auspicious religious event and the biggest religious gathering in the world.
Days go by, we become more and more rational and believe less and less in supernatural beings. But it looks like even in the 21st century most people in India sincerely believe in myths. In 2001, 70 million pilgrims came to bathe in the rivers they believe holy.
An ancient India lives in the heart of Modern India. Thousands of gods are dead today including the mighty gods of Olympus, Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite, Dionysus, Athena. But Hindu gods are still surviving in the crowd of monotheism. It seems when monotheistic gods will all be dead, Hindus will make their gods survive. They unbelievably love their 33 million gods.
I have never been to Kumbha Mela, like I have never been to Hajj or Biswa Ijtema. Am I claustrophobic? I am not sure. But I stay away from all kinds of madness, and that I am sure of.