Varanasi & Allahabad For The Once-In-12-Years Phenomenon That’s The Kumbh Mela

To give a little background for those who are interested, the Kumbh Mela is a holy pilgrimage taken by thousands of pious Hindus (and now even others purely for the travel experience) every 4 years to take a dip in the Ganga river, ritualistically, to purge themselves of their life’s sins.  The Kumbh Mela happens every 4 years at a different city out of 4 namely Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Puri on a rotational basis. (So essentially, in each of those cities it happens every 12 years.)
Also, the Maha Kumbh of this year was a once-in-a-144 years phenomenon due to its astrological auspiciousness. Stats have it the Mahakumbh is the single largest human gathering at one place in the world with over 80 million visitors this year and a group of Harvard students actually camped at the Kumbh to do a case study on the event.

Well, to wash away our sins or not, the prospect of being a witness, nay, a part of a once in a lifetime event of the Maha Kumbh happening right in your country, was too much to miss, so Kate, an American friend and I decided to go and join our friend in Allahabad and ‘do the kumbh’ as Kate put it.

After an interesting train journey of close to thirty hours, Kate and I first stopped by at Varanasi – the holiest Hindu city- A religious town based completely along the banks of river Ganga, famous for its many ghats, funeral pyres,  the evening Arti and its many religious ritualistic rites. Devout Hindus go to Varanasi to spend their last days of life, have a fire cremation by the ghats and ascend onto heaven via ashes of their mortal remains immersed into the Ganga. 

This post is mainly going to be the some of pictures I took in this trip as there’s really nothing more exciting to write about the place and the experience than the place itself.

The Dashashvemedha Ghat  thronging with religious fervour and festivities.

funeral pyre varanasi

Funeral pyres burning at the Ghat

varanasi ghats

Evening aartis have begun.

varanasi ghats

The Naga Sadhus bless the devotees 


We left Varanasi the same night and reached Allahabad after a short bus journey of a few hours. After doing some local sightseeing in Allahabad during the day, we decided to go to the Kumbh Mela site in the evening, on the eve of Mahashivratri to take a dip in the Ganga. Pictures from Allahabad leg of the trip follow….

Kumbh mela

When millions of people have and continue to throng a place, the dust in the air is as palpable as air itself. However it did make for some beautiful blurs in the photos. 

Kumbh mela

When faith of millions of people flows together in the holy Ganga

rajasthani women

Impeccably dressed in their Rajasthani finery.


Last day of the MahaKumbh- MahaShivratri. Throngs of people look like confetti from a distance

We all took a dip in the river on the last day of Kumbh, on the day of Mahashivratri and I for one, couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time that day.

The night was a different story altogether, as our train was delayed by hours, and the crowds at the railway station were something else.

Kate’s like “Screw it! Lemme have my pizza”

I’ve never been much of a religious person but I’ve always respected different religions and their beliefs. After attending the Mahakumbh, all I can say is if it takes a religion to inspire millions of people from across the country, across age groups, braving the weather and the exhaustion that travels like this would entail, to converge at one place, bathe in a common water, letting an event of a scale as colossal as the Kumbh, go on almost flawlessly for over 3 months; faith can’t be bad.

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2 Responses

  1. Awesome pictures. Hope you enjoyed the mela. 😉

  2. Dev says:

    Its nice
    I went off my old memories when I was exchange student in brazil and portugal when people travel they share such information…

    very nice