More than 80 million people descended to the banks of the Ganges River, during the first months of 2013, to celebrate in the largest religious gathering – Kumbh Mela. The Kumbh Mela is held every three years in one of four places, meaning it is held once every 12 years at each place.
This year it was held in Allahabad – in the Ganges River where Hindus believed the gods carried pitchers or Kumbh where drops of nectar fell after the seas were churned, making these rivers holy. The Hindus gather to bathe in the sacred river, washing away all their sins. I too found myself on the banks of the Ganges River.
I, along some Indian and Hindu colleagues of mine made the voyage to Allahabad, the day before the locals bathe in the river – after the millions of others have already gone and left behind empty lands of sand.
My friends and colleagues were dressed in their religious clothes, ready to bathe in the holiest of waters. I in my jeans and button down shirt had no such intentions
We rose before the sun to take a small oar driven boat to the Triveni Sangam, the intersection of Yumana River, Ganges River and the mythical Sarasvati River – where devotees perform rituals. My friends and colleagues were dressed in their religious clothes, ready to bathe in the holiest of waters. I in my jeans and button down shirt had no such intentions- I was only there for the unique experience.
As we slowly drifted into the sunrise along with hundreds of other boats the river banks became alive. In the distance the praying and singing got louder, the congregation larger – it was as if the Ganges River emptied into the sea of people.
As we arrived at our destination for the holy dip an overwhelming calm swept through the small wooden boats knocking against each other. I decided then to take the dip. In a river that tens of millions have been through – I have never felt so cleansed.
By: Tyler M Reid