The Mahakumbh a once-in-a144 year occurance is when Hinduism keeps its date with immortality. (The famous Kumbh Mela comes once in 12 years and the ardh Kumbh once in 6) When devotees from across India and the world come to take a dip and wash their sins in the holy 'Sangam' where the powerful brown Ganga, the black dwindling Yamuna and the mythical Saraswathi rivers converge to form a such a heady forgiving mixture of a river, that millions of India and her modern day saints believe that just a dip can absolve you of your wrong doings. So when Sanjay Nanda sent an online invite to the Indian Photo Tours trip, I just signed up. No thinking, no discussion, I was going. I knew this trip was going to be different from my other travels. That along with me were two very special and talented people Deeptha Umapathy and Chandan Dubey promised to only make it better.
I was mentally prepared for the crowds and coming from the teeming speed obsessed Bombay, I was ready for a sea of people everywhere I looked, what took me by surprise was the calmness in the crowds. The energy was very different. This was a very peaceful space. The air was rent equally with bhajans and chants of all sorts, and with the tragi-comical and continual announcements of lost people, lost wallets, pan cards, mobiles and every once in a while punctuated by the thundering chugging from the train passing an overhead bridge. And everywhere we looked we saw people carrying their bags walking, walking, walking into the motor free Kumbh city.
Sharing with you a few of my favourite images of the Kumbh Day 1.
The place is a kaleidoscope of happenings, from processions filled with frenzied dancing, to domesticated street-side cooking by families who live on the streets of the Kumbh, to people drying their clothes, to flower sellers. Its all happening right there simultaneously.
The Sadhu sightings begin.
In the Iskcon Camp, at the entrance they had these beautiful tableau's of gods and goddessed and I saw this man silently sitting and reading his prayers. He almost looked like he was one among the dolls and posters.
Walking to the ghats we saw many people and some really stunning women. Completely rural, completely confident.
And we were at the ghats where people were bathing in the river, photography was prohibited in these areas and the area was densely and seriously patrolled by police who would blow whistles straight into our ears if they suspected we were shooting people or women changing.
The evening was beautiful and the sight of the bathers and devotees dipping in the Ganges and offering obeisance in the river will make for one of the most beautiful memories in my life time. I just wish I went there again, less as a photographer and more as someone who is just there and living in the moment. This was one of the many times at the kumbh when I just wanted to be there and soak in the moment rather than angle for that good shot.
And as we were walking back from the camp we saw this Sadhu sitting with eyes closed and completely oblivious to all the activity around him. There seemed to be an aura of quiet all around him and his companion was a man who quietly observed all of us taking pictures of his guru with fierce yet silent eyes.
This was day one and I do have a LOT many more pictures which i will probably upload on FB. It was such a beautiful place and what is it about retrospect that casts a golden glow on everything. The next day was the BIG DAY. Basant Panchami and the day of the shahi snan. The day that the famed Naga Baba's would come out in droves for the Royal dip. They wait for years and years for this big day and photographers come from across the world to capture their magic. Time is playing its own numbers and I will have to wait till Monday till I post about them. See you guys soon.
I definitely want to put in a word for the organisers of this trip, the Indian Photo Tours people. What was so nice about the way Dheeraj Paul and Sanjiv Bhadula organised the trip and the photography class was their mixture of a hands off but always available approach. It is a delicate balance to strike.And they did it brilliantly.