I did it- Kumbh Poornima-I did it

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Phew! Hurray! I did Kumbh on snan day, Maghi Poornima, 25th February, the feeling, the achievement, the importance; its magnitude is unbelievable. Thanks to Indian Railways who allowed waiting passengers to sit with confirmed ones, ‘How can I tell anyone to miss out on kumbh, the whole train is going there’, said a harassed yet polite TT. ‘Have you been there, is it raining, is it crowded?’ we shouted and he shocked us, ‘I haven’t bathed, my duty is on train’ and we looked amazingly at each other. Who says government officials shirk from work?

Walking long distances with luggage is a prerequisite. At Allahabad we are greeted by black clouds, rain begins and roads become muddy, rickshaws are far away, tempos at far end of the street, autos still further away making the area clean and clear. Congrats to administration, police and army personnel as all are at their best behavior and sooo… polite and kind, it is a shocker, not a single gaali coming from their mouth, not even a frown. Rickshaws charging triple rates is understandable for this is the only time they can save for a rainy day and after all we are all here for charity, donation, earning merit, being kind, being large hearted. Walking in rains is discouraging but finding camps is easy as at every police and army are present to guide pilgrims. Here, not even a child can get lost.

‘Ten year old Nandu from Sonepur is lost, please come to collect him from the red tower’, ‘75 year old Mange Ram from Junagadh was bathing and when he came out he could not see his son, his son is advised to collect him from the red tower’, ‘5 year old girl is lost she is crying and is not wearing anything, her relatives may please rush to red tower’, an unemotional voice on mike rattled announcements one after other and those hearing it were shocked, some doubled with laughter, some clutched more tightly to their relatives, and I yelled the name of the ashram to my friend just in case. This is before Poornima snan, mentally preparing us for Magh Poornima. We spot sangam, meeting of Yamuna, Ganga and Saraswati. Yamuna, the dark sister, ever so jumpy, reminding that she was lucky enough to touch her future husband’s feet when He was a new-born, high voltage Ganges pausing long enough to meet her sisters and fair Saraswati hiding from public gaze knowing no one wants her gift of wisdom. The three meet leisurely and authorities protect their union for who likes disturbance? Yamuna and Ganges have an angry reputation while shy Saraswati doesn’t like attention.

Testing the coldness we step in delicately. Pilgrims look at each other, smiling, laughing, total strangers from Bengal, Chennai, Maharashtra, Punjab, Somnath-all trying to help each other move in further, to dip with their heads several times. Men offer their elbows to ladies who shriek at the depth and then laugh at their silliness. ‘So many for the living ones’, I dip in and ‘these many for the departed ones’, I dip again repeating names and gotras and look up to thank Almighty for bringing me on waiting ticket. We try moving further to collect water but jal police explains that this is the water of their union. I look at the dark blue Yamuna, light blue Ganges and white Saraswati who laughingly bless us. Twinkling diyas on banks and lighted agarbattis are submerged by army personnel to avoid accidents and no one minds, pilgrims mumble mantras, do arati, vigilantes collect coins& coconut & clothes from waters, guards collect plastic with large fishing nets, householders submerge ashes, dissolve old photos, the irresponsible throw plastic. Changing clothes is an art. Indian women discover thousand of ways to change wet clothes amidst lakh of pilgrims still maintaining their modesty. We walk straight to Bade Hanuman temple. A 24 feet Hanuman idol on the ground is a sight pilgrims want to die for. Climbing one over another we are pushed till we behold, Hanumanji, below, lying straight with wide large eyes. Bowing we let our garlands and roses fall on His vast chest and He holds them close but our rupees fly hither and thither. After all, if this Rama sevak could throw away a necklace given by Sita, why would He hold petty money? After a dull lunch and a much needed nap we head for a second snan and then to Ramakrishna Mission camp. It is vibrant with women in colorful Bengali saris, open hair, large bindis and men in chic crisp kurtas, holding their wives’ hand bags and swamis sitting in meditation. This is a well organized camp with book counters, Swami Vivekananda’s exhibition and a temple. Here no one shouts, laughs, talks loudly. Presence of swamis invokes devoutness and leaves us feeling blessed. We visit Beni Madhav temple in a small by-lane where Radha and Krishna stand holding arms giving pleasure to devotees in a silver dress and Radha ji with a blue chunri on Her delicate shoulders.

Next day- Poornima, Magh snan – people gather from 1.00 am. Early birds go at 4.00 am; we venture at 6.00 am and find ourselves submerged in lakhs of people. Young hold old, children cling to adults, around 50 women in ghagras are cynosure of all eyes for they walk inside a large badminton net held by men from both sides, mikes announce lost pilgrims ceaselessly. Crowd is mind blowing. Walking is difficult with everyone stepping on each other and I step on a sleeping infant. We reach sangam for the holiest dip on last day of kumbh. This is it. Valuable, I’ll be recalling it after 12 years for who can trust Time, the biggest deceiver? In the evening we greedily go in for another snan and get caught by the Moon- Fully Blown, Full Circle, Golden yellow, Ever Smiling, Witness of the Kumbh, Incomparable, Never was anything more beautiful!

May the moment remain engraved deeply in memory!

Also read
1. All you wanted to know about the Kumbha Mela
2. Pictures of Kumbh Haridwar 2010
3. Pictures of Kumbh Prayag 2001
4. Kumbh Mela and Media