The train to the Maha Kumbh Mela

Publish date 26-08-2022

by Roberto Cristaudo

A metallic noise wakes me up. The sweet smell of chai, the typical Indian tea, invades the train carriage. I close my eyes and the light reveals a scene poised between the dream and the exodus.

In the wagon where I spent the night, on the journey from New Delhi to Allahabad, a considerable number of people gathered. Last night, when I fell asleep, there were only four of us.
I raise the camera and shoot without thinking, everything is perfect, the light, the eyes and the time that seems suspended. All the people on this train have a common destination: the Kumbh Mela.

The great Hindu pilgrimage. The largest religious gathering in the world, every three years it hosts millions of people in the four sacred places on the sacred rivers Ganges and Yamuna: Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik. The choice of the city and the date are defined according to the position of the planets, in particular of Jupiter, the Sun and the Moon. Every four rotations, practically every twelve years, the Maha Kumbh Mela takes place in Allahabad which in 2013 gathered about eighty million people.

This colossal religious event has its origins in Hindu mythology. During a battle between demons and gods for the conquest of the Kumbh, the jug that contained the Amrit (the nectar of immortality) four drops of the precious fluid fell to earth, in the four cities that became sacred and recognized as connecting points between Earth and Heaven. The faithful come from all over the world and its effect is described by the words of the writer Mark Twain, who attended the Kumbh Mela in 1895: , young, frail undertake such an incredible journey without hesitation or complaint, enduring the hardships without protesting. It is done out of love or out of fear: I don't know which of the two. It doesn't matter what the impulse is, the resulting act exceeds the imagination, and it's wonderful for our people, us cold whites ".

Roberto Cristaudo
NP April 2022

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