Allahabad (a.m.) / New Delhi (p.m.), India
Date: Lodging: Distance: Total:
14/01/2001 Grand Hyatt Delhi 830 KM 140094 KM

Posters of gurus are throughout the grounds of the Kumbh Mela.

Another crowded bridge over the Ganges

Organizers expect 70 million Hindus to visit the Ganges during the 2001 Kumbh Mela. Bridges, recently made, sand streets through the campgrounds, and the Ganges bank were packed today.

Praying and bathing IV

Women stand as anchors for a clothesline allowing the holy Ganges water to dry on the cloth, which will never be washed again.

More washing in the sacred Ganges

Washing a fabric in the Ganges, which will be taken home never to be washed again.

Dressing after bathing

This boy stands back and takes everything in after immersing himself in the Ganges.

Praying and bathing III

Praying and bathing II

Little girls attending their first Kumbh Mela dress after bathing in the River Ganges. Attending this event is as important to Hindus as making the pilgrimage to Mecca is for Muslims or to the Golden Temple is for Sikhs.

This man makes sure the Ganges water cleans even his toes.

The vibrant colors of the women’s saris made for a spectacular scene on the Ganges.

Praying and bathing I

After bathing in the Ganges, men return to their pile of clothes atop the blankets they slept on last night. Note the guy styling his hair after immersing himself in the dirty, but purifying waters.

More than 10 million believers are expected to dip in the Ganges today, one of the three primary bathing days of this year’s Kumbh Mela. Police on horses, on foot and in four-wheel drive vehicles tour the massive grounds ensuring order and safety.

The extremely cold morning temperatures during this year’s Kumbh Mela make the sweet, milky tea a delicious necessity. The cost for a small cup is about US four cents ($.04).

14 January 20001 – What an unprecedented experience for us to attend the Kumbh Mela, held every 12 years in the Ganges River in Allahabad, especially today, one of the three primary bathing days with seven million people immersing themselves. Bathing in the Ganges during the Mela, which goes on for more than one month, is a sacred Hindu ritual expected of every believer once in his lifetime. The Mela is the largest congregation in the world of people in one place, and no matter one’s belief, I believe most would feel enriched, or at least touched, by the outpouring of faith.

With sunrise this morning, holy men and gurus, often wearing little or nothing, took to the river, in a select order to avoid fights between sects wanting to be first in the river. But most men and boys, allowed to wash after the holy men, wear cloth or trunks of some sort. Women do not disrobe, they wear sarees into the water and little girls don panties. Afterwards, the females try to shield their bodies as they change into another saree in the open on the shore, but with millions of people soaked, no one could feel too self-conscious. The temperature is cold, this morning near freezing, so men and women move about the purifying rather quickly.

Some men chant and sing prior to entering the holy water and many pray while immersed in the murky brew, which is certainly not clean, but this matters little. At one point with thousands around us, I looked out and reveled at the multitude of people shaping this scene in the Ganges. Ancient men looking near death without an ounce of meat on their bodies, two young girls giddy as they experienced their first Kumbh, plump, middle-aged and skinny, old women obviously scared to immerse themselves entirely, but holding their noses and taking the plunge to rid a lifetime of sin. Middle-aged men running with gusto and passion into the dirty purification river. Beautiful mothers and daughters washing fabrics in the sacred water. An old, chubby man and colorfully-adorned, but frumpy, middle-aged woman, both in prayer pose, with arms held high and palms together, looking to the sky with a deity in their minds. People gathering and carrying away sacred Ganges water in small brass cups and bottles. And higher on the bank, women standing in pairs, like anchors of clotheslines, holding their recently washed fabric, billowing softly, never to be washed again.

Oh to be traveling the world and experiencing such remarkable times.