Sunday, February 21, 2010

Haridwar Maha Kumbh Mela (Fair) 2010--A Lifetime Experience.

Maha Shiv-Ratri Royal Bath at Haridwar Maha Kumbh Fair.(Feb.12,2010)
(Maha=huge/vast, Kumbh=pot)
I had a life long dream to visit,see and share the world's biggest devotional congregation of humanity on this planet in the holy city of Haridwar (India),i.e."Maha Kumbh" happening once in 12 years time.
My journey/visit to Maha Kumbh Mela on 12th Feb.2010 in Haridwar and a holy dip in the sacred  waters of the river"The Ganges"(at a water temp. of  2*c) was an eternal experience.
As I write this post late night after returning home on midnight 13-14th Feb.2010, I am tuned into TV channels and can you imagine that a record breaking 55 Lakhs (5.5 million) devotees had a holy dip in the Ganges in 24 hours during Royal Bath on the Mahashivratri day (Feb.12th). I can believe it as I was a testimony to this devotional mega event for nearly 32 hours.Nowhere on this planet it can be possible except Haridwar,India.
I left for the holy city of Haridwar early in the morning of Feb.12th, in my car and reached there at 9.30 A.M.after a 5 hours of long journey from my home town Bhiwani. 
  It was a very special and pious Maha Shiv Ratri day i.e.Feb.12th (day on which Hindu God-Lord Shiva married Goddess Parwati), a day for the first Grand Royal bath by Naga Sadhus or Babas (The naked Indian holy men/monks who normally live in quite isolation in the Himalayan mountains,caves or forests in India).
Waves upon waves of bliss,the darshan(view)-the blessings-of all the magnificent saints and yogis who come out of their Himalayan caves only once every 12 years in order to bless the people.This is the Kumbh Mela (the festival of the pot of nectar of immortality).Truly a once in life time,unforgettable event.
 Open photography by cameras was not allowed for the foreign tourists by the authorities due to Royal Bath by bare-bodied Naga Saints during day time on 12th Feb. but I  managed to capture some of the unforgettable,aesthetic,and sheer devotional moments with my Kodak and mobile cameras.Here are a few of them, revealing a universe of devotion,faith,trust,belief and divinity.
HARIDWAR : Har Ki Pauri.
Ground view in day time.
Aerial view (Har Ki Pauri) from hotel top in the evening.
Main center stage site i.e. Har Ki Pauri at Haridwar (Har=God,Ki=of,Pauri=Footsteps, means Footsteps of God) and Haridwar means Gateway to God (Hari=God,dwar=gateway).Huge gathering on both banks of the river"The Ganges"having a holy dip in it.
Haridwar is an ancient holy city of India for Hindus.The river Ganges from Himalayan mountains,enters the plains at Haridwar.The water of river Ganga is considered so sacred at Haridwar that pilgrims carry the water back home for its use on all the auspicious occasions throughout the year.It is believed that Haridwar has been sanctified by the presence of three Hindu Gods : Brahma,Vishnu and Shiva.Devout believers feel that they will attain salvation after a dip in the sacred Ganga at Haridwar.The center of this activity is Ha- ki-Pauri : "Footsteps of God", lined with multiple steps down the river for a holy dip by the pilgrims and multiple temples on both the banks of the river.It is here at the Har Ki Pauri ( the spot : Brahmakund),drops of the elixir of immortality fell by accidental spillage from the pitcher (Kumbh) carried by the celestial bird Garuda.Therefore,a dip in the Brahmakund at Har Ki Pauri at Kumbh Mela is considered very auspicious.By  bathing here all sins are cleansed and unification with God is possible.
The Kumbh fair takes place in Haridwar when Jupiter enters Aquarius and the Sun enters Aries.This planetary position is said to medicate the waters of Ganges at Har Ki Pauri,and turns it into nectar(Amrit) on these days,thereby attracting millions to purify their sins and inner-self  through holy bathing rituals.Spiritually,position of planets during the Kumbh Mela or fair is good for concentration and meditation.This planetary position (one round of Jupiter through the zodiac) occurs once in 12 years time at Haridwar,hence it attracts the mind of any tourist to this place.
Etymology : "Kumbha" is a Sanskrit language word for the Pitcher (a roundish pot with no handles) sometimes referred to as Kalasha.It is also a zodiac sign in Indian astrology for Aquarious,while "Mela" means 'a gathering' or a meet or simply a fair.
History : Hindu mythological scriptures and mythological legends say that at the beginning of creation,all the Gods were under a curse that made them weak and coward.Brahma- the creator God,advised them to retrieve the Kumbh (earthen pot) containing the nectar of immortality (Amrit) by churning the then primitive or primordial white sea, intake of which will make them immortal.The Gods alone were unable to churn the sea so they sought the help of demons for the purpose.Gods and demons made a temporary arrangement to work together in obtaining the nectar of immortality and to share this equally later on.The Mandara Mountain was used as a churning rod and  Vasuki-the king of serpents,became the rope for churning.With the demigods at Vasuki's tail and the demons at his head,they churned the ocean for 1,000 years.However,as Dhanvantari-the divine healer,appeared with the Kumbh (pot) containing nectar in his palms,a great fight ensued between the Gods and the demons to wrest the pitcher.The demons ran away with the pot and were chased by the Gods.A fierce battle ensued between Gods and demons.For 12 days and 12 nights(equivalent to 12 human years), the Gods and demons fought in the sky for the possession of this pot of nectar of immortality.It is said that during the battle,a few drops of nectar fell on to four different places on the earth : Prayag,Haridwar,Nasik and Ujjain (India).Since then,when the planets align in the same position,pilgrims and devotees converge to commemorate this divine event at these four cities of India turn wise every 12 years.
Holy procession of Naga Saints and,
 Somersaults,Dance and Music during Mahashivratri Royal Bath......
Brandishing glittering swords and flashing silver maces,thousands of (exact figure : 250,000) bare-bodied and bare-footed Naga Sadhus (saints) danced to the beat of drums,turned somersaults and chanted fervently as they took a nearly 2 km long procession at 10 AM from their tents in Cantt. area, through the streets/roads of holy city Haridwar and rushing towards the revered Ganges to perform the first and much awaited Shahi Snan(Royal Bath) of this century on the occasion of Mahashivratri,Friday (Feb.12th), one of the biggest days of the ongoing Kumbh Mela at Haridwar.It took nearly 2 hours for them to reach the Har ki Pauri. I followed the strong and world's biggest ever contingent of 250,000 Naga saints during this mesmerizing,unique,ecstatic,auspicious and thrilling devotional journey.
 The greatest feature of Kumbh fair was furious and exotic Naga Sadhus (The Naked Saints) covered in ash with long and matted hairs.They are known as preserver of faith and are seen in public only once in 12 years during Kumbh Fair.Rest 0f the years they reside in isolation in The Himalayan forests and caves,completely cut off from this hustling-bustling materialistic world.

To watch a Kumbh procession of Naga saints is to witness the march of centuries.The noise baffled all descriptions,the shouts and cries of ash-smeared sadhus or saints co-mingled with the neighing of horses,the grunts of camels,the bellowing of bulls,the trumpeting of elephants,as well as gongs and drums beating,trumpets blaring,conch shells blowing,and bells ringing.In the midst of all this discord,musicians performed. I thought I had come out of ages with bliss and devotion all around me with an inherent desire to march like this in a scent of eternity forever.
Women Naga Sadhvis(saints) in procession before reaching Har ki Pauri for a holy dip in the Ganges.
Seeing women saints including some foreigners was delightful and I thought how lucky were these women who were closest to the God away from the mortal world of hatred,tensions,hurries and worries.
The sacred procession of Nagas through streets of Haridwar with people or devotees lined up on both sides with their folded hands as a mark of respect and prayer..(wonderful devotional scenes).

Palanquins of Naga saints used in the holy march..( a devotional flavor )

Devotees on camels.

Musical bands in the holy march of saints.

Saints or Nagas on the silver chariot with large musical nagaras or bands at the front with soulful loud tunes of devotion and eternity.Chariot is pulled by devotees themselves.

Other chariots carrying sadhus.

A chariot with purple blue umbrella..

Another silver chariot.

A golden chariot.
As the holy saints passed by on their various and sundry conveyances, they were continually transmitting waves of powerful energy to all the devotees lined up on the sides of their way to Har ki Pauri and seeing/witnessing this awe-inspiring and most auspicious event.Devotees were overwhelmed by the palpable spiritual vibrations that pervaded the entire atmosphere.This unique event blended religious and cultural features alike.With the entire atmosphere saturated with chiming bells,incense and flower fragrance,Vedic hymns,mantras,with gold and silver chariots being pulled by devotees,as they showed their strength and skills--pure enchantment of soul. 
Colorful variety of dresses worn by saints.:-


Saffron color-a pious Hindu religion color predominates in dresses of saints and their belongings.

Holy procession of Naga saints: view from roof of a house in the way.
A closer view of Naga saints with shaved scalps and body smeared in ash.
The procession lined up at the final destination i.e. near Har ki Pauri on the banks of Ganges for the pious,and much awaited Royal bath.
The final line up on Har ki Pauri by Naga sadhus to go for the most auspicious,sacred and once in a 12 years event (first of this century) i.e. a holy dip (Royal Bath)  in The Ganges sanctified water.
And here they go with their palanquins too for purification.
And here they go for the final lifetime wish.
Thrill and excitement were writ large on their faces that normally remain expressionless,when the Naga Sadhus stepped into the water.At that time the ghats (bathing site) became vibrant and reverberated with ecstatic shouts of 'Har Har Gange',Jai Ganga Maiya','Har Har Mahadev', as they plunged into the river for the Royal Bath--symbolising their having dedicated themselves to holy river.
Naga saints with bathing weapons.(scenes of devotional excitement and fervor... incomparable ecstasy).
Thrill and excitement writ large on faces of Naga saints with brandishing of their swords while running for a holy dip in the Ganges.(oh!oh!...enlightening moments one can ever wish in his lifetime).
Waving the saffron or red flag while bathing.Red or saffron colored flag or clothing is considered as most pious/auspicious in Hindu religion.
The Royal Bath--also known as the royal entourage of the Gods--appeared nothing less than a festival when a sea of  Naga saints showered the Ganges with rose petals and marigolds and sang holy hymns even when  they were taking a holy dip in the ice cold waters of the river" TheGanges".
A Naga Saint brandishing glittering swords with shouts of 'Har Har Mahadev'. A woman (foreigner) saint also seen with Nagas having a holy dip.
Naga Saint praying for peace and devotion on this earth while submerged in sacred Ganges water.
Another view of saints having the first Royal Bath of this century at Har ki Pauri on Feb.,12,2010.
The much awaited and much participated Arti (prayer) of The sacred River "The Ganges" in the evening daily since ages, is one of the events that no pilgrim visiting Haridwar would like to miss.Standing bare-footed on banks of Ganges at Har ki Pauri with large burning sacred flames and chanting of 'Jai Gange Maiya' with soulful beating of drums and bells loudly, fills the whole atmosphere with sanctity and bliss.
A closer view of evening Ganges Prayer.
More closer view.
The sacred flame held high in hands with clothing on handles of flame for heat insulation during The Ganges prayer in the evening.
Devotees  too getting blessings during arti or Ganges prayer.
Participant devotees in morning prayers at Har ki Pauri on Feb.13th.
Like the evening prayer,daily morning prayer after a holy bath in The Ganges is also the most sanctful moments at Har KI Pauri since ages. 
A saint  praying and praising the mother Ganges in his own sacred style, after his early morning holy bath/dip and the ceremonial morning Ganges prayer.

Early morning view of sacred banks of Ganges.
The sea of crowd having the native groups in every imaginable costume,some shine in clothes of gold,surrounded by followers splendidly arranged,others in less expensive but picturesquely dressed attires,and many half or fully naked or wildly clad.The melange of priests,soldiers,religious mendicants,half beggars-half bandits,with a smattering of Europeans,exhibit all together an exotic display--unique in the whole world on this planet.
Early morning view at Har ki Pauri before sunrise  with devotees still lined up on both the banks of Ganges for a holy dip.No Nagas today.They will be seen now only on the day of 2nd Royal Bath scheduled for March,15th,2010.

View at sunrise away from Har ki Pauri.

Devotees(public) having a holy dip and offering prayers to The Ganges and the rising Sun-God in the morning.

A view of Har ki Pauri a little later.General devotees flocking the Har ki Pauri for a pious dip in the ice cold Ganges water to wash their sins and bow down to "Mother Gange".

Devotees praying with holy bath.
A devotee offering the sacred Ganges water to The Sun in her prayers.
 12th Feb.--Shivratri day in a Hindu temple where women devotees offered milk to Shivling (God Shiva's holy stone) on the auspicious day of Shivratri (the day on which God Shiva married Goddess Parwati).Indian married women worship Lord Shiva for their husband's long life and health, while unmarried girls worship Shiv Linga for getting married to an handsome and healthy husband.Goddess Parwati too worshiped Shiv Linga for years before getting married to Lord Shiva.

Nearly 20,000 police and security guards were deployed in an area of 130 sq.km of the Kumbh Fair on Feb,12,2010 for smooth conclusion of Royal Bath. Har ki Pauri was handed over to the Rapid Action Force.Thirty two police stations and 41 police chowki's were set up in the 130 sq.km area of the fair for the smooth conduction of the first and a record 5.5 million devotees Royal Bath in one day.

This Maha Kumbh fair at Haridwar is being held from January,14th to April,28,2010 (total 105 days : longest ever in the world)
.
The second Royal Bath is scheduled for 15th March,2010 and God willing I will be coming here again to witness this world's largest devotional congregation of Maha Kumbh,Haridwar (India).
"JAI GANGA MAIYA"
"HAR HAR GANGE"
"HAR HAR MAHA DEV"
A video of Evening Prayers (Aarti) of "Mother Ganges"at Har ki Pauri (archives You tube).
Video of an awesome devotional song by a young Indian woman praying Mother Gange for the long life of her husband.
( Maiya -o -Ganga maiya, Maiya-o-Ganga Maiya=O my Mother Ganges,O my Mother Ganges,
Ganga maiya mein jab tak ke paani rahe = Till there is water in the sacred Ganges river,
Mere sajna teri jindgani rahe  =  My beloved, you live long till that time.)..

10 comments:

  1. Hello, my friend...I am on the run today, and so I don't have time to devote myself to giving your very detailed and heartfelt post the proper read that it deserves! I will have to return another day, but I will say this much... Your photos are incredible...as is your devotion...Sending you my best! Janine

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  2. Fascinating post, my friend...Thank you for giving us a rare glimpse of your country and culture, and its rich history! Incredible photography, and so nice to hear your perspective on the event. Hugs, Janine

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  3. Thank you you soooooooooo much Janine for your welcome visit here and your kind comments/views.

    Warm Smiles and Hugs to you.
    dr.s.s.yadav

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  4. Hello, Dr Yadav
    I will return to read your post in full but I just wanted to thank you for showing us your culture and xountry in such detail. I need to make some time to fully appreciate it.

    Whilst writing I thank you for your kind and generous words concerning my Sunday Roast Column. I really love meeting people and working together with them to publish their interviews. I am highly privilaged to have taken over from David McMahon when he quit blogging in October 2009.

    As for my progress - I am doing very well after 5 weeks and can already walk without sticks for quite a distance and regularly walk 2 miles with sticks. Email to follow. Warmest regards ~ Eddie

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  5. nice stuff man !

    kumbh mela was fun ..

    ---shishir

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  6. Me ha gustado mucho tu blog, sobre todo los consejos a personas mayores que me vaq muy bien a mi. Gracias y mis felicitaciones. Saludos. Victoria.

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  7. Very nice & memorable photographs

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  8. I am very interested to learn more and more about indian festivals and culture. Your site is very much helpful to give us latest information on kumbh mela dates.

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  9. Thanks for the useful information. Your article is beneficial for us and those who are searching for kumbh mela bathing.

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