Maha Kumbh

Immersed in faith

Print edition : March 22, 2013

I HAD always wanted to visit the Kumbh, not out of any religious fervour but for the sheer magnitude of the event and the photo ops it afforded. And I was not disappointed.

What amazed me was the “faith”. The faith that rural India has in religion, customs and traditions. Braving all odds, they come in overcrowded train compartments, fighting for a foothold or less of space, carrying with them bundles containing cooking provisions and rugs, mattresses and clothing. Sleeping in the open in the heat of the day and the chill of the night, they camp at the Kumbh city for days until they are spiritually fulfilled. Then they begin their long trudge back to where they came from.

I kept awake all night in order to reach the place of the happening, the sangam, well before daybreak on February 10. It was one of the most special days of the mela. Lights threw a yellow glow all over the huge area.

The first strains of daylight sneaked in around 5-30 a.m. And though weak, it created an aura of charm and added to the existing arena of lights and afforded the photographers the much-needed additional light.

We all waited in a disciplined manner, according to the instructions of the security guards who were clearing the path for the event of the day, the Naga sadhus’ arrival for their ceremonial dip in the sangam.

And then they came, clothed in ash, dancing, running, riding on horses, showing off their long matted hair and generally enjoying the attention they were getting from both the public and the media. The photographers, numbering more than a hundred, who had shown great restraint until then, broke loose, running after the sadhus, their flash guns adding to the mystic light. They shot away, not minding or caring about the rude pulls and pushes of the security guards or even a light use of the lathi at times.

As I took a dip in the sangam after almost three days of intense photography, I overheard of group of pilgrims conversing in Tamil. I asked a youngster in the group where he was from. He paused, looked at me, ducked his head under the water, came up and, even as he shook off the water, said: “India.”

D. Krishnan

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