Every 12 years, millions of Hindu pilgrims travel to the Indian city of Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela, the largest public gathering in the world. The Maha Kumbh Mela is known as the biggest gathering of human beings in the world. This was amply proved by observing a sea of more than 30 million Hindu devotees gathered at the confluence of 3 rivers (Triveni Sangam) at Allahabad (Prayagraj) on 10 February. The tithi (Auspicious day) of Mauni Amavasya began from 3.15 p.m. on 9 February. Since then, a sea of devotees had gathered on the 22 ghats (banks) of river Ganga and confluence to take a Holy bath.
Understandably for a gathering of this size, the event is wrought with real-time problems. Such unique phenomena drew a team from Harvard University to Allahabad this year to study the event. The trove of information would be a boon for researchers in the growing field of big data, who are tackling the challenges of curating, storing, analyzing, and sharing the massive amounts of information generated by companies and governments in the digital age.
Mauni Amavasya is considered the holiest of the 56-day festival. Millions of Hindu holy men and pilgrims descend at the Kumbh mela site for a bracing plunge in Ganges to what they feel will wash away sins; many of them walked miles before they reached the river bank. According to ancient religious scriptures, Mauni Amavasya is the day on which Manu sage appeared in this world, millions of years ago. It is believed to be the day when the universe was created. On this day, the Moon enters into the Capricorn sign.
Practising austerities is believed to purify an individual’s existence and observing the vow of silence is apparently the simplest way to do so. The day holds extreme religious importance and taking bath on this day in the holy waters is deemed significant and auspicious. Besides the bath, meeting so many sages and sanyasis in one place is a great experience. There are arrangements of huge bhandaras, where the pilgrims are served food. One can listen to so many satsangs being organized at different camps and akharas.
AN AUSPICIOUS COINCIDENCE OCCURRING AFTER 147 YEARS
On this Mauni Amavasya, the planets Shani (Saturn) and Rahu have come together. This is a rare occurrence and happened after the lapse of 147 years. During this period, the sun and the moon will travel together in their orbit. It last happened in 1865. Therefore, this period is considered as very beneficial for taking a bath, donation, and shraddha (Special rituals performed for the departed ancestors). This special occasion also caused the rush of devotees in an increased proportion. For the pilgrims, bathing is the climax of the journey.
I along with my wife, Jaya and son, Babai have come to Allahabad for taking bath in river Ganga on the auspicious occasion of Mauni Amabasya. We reached Allahabad by train via Kolkata on 6 February. It was Kumbh flavor everywhere – from Howrah station to the train journey. There were some women singing kirtans. Jaya also joined them briefly.
Our Guruji also reached Allahabad on the nights of 8 February from Varanasi for the bath with us. He had to walk around 16 kms to reach our home due to stoppage of traffic in the city. In fact, we were privileged to have bath with our Guruji. We started our journey for the bath from the home of Jaya’s parents at 11.30 a.m. of 9th February. We joined the sea of humanity walking slowly towards the Triveni sangam. We reached the ghat at around 2.30 a.m. of 10th February. At first, Jaya, Boudi, Guttu and I took our dips with Guruji, while Babai & Prasanta was guarding the clothes. Then Guruji and I took them to the ghat for their bath. It was quite a cold night with temperature dropping below 8°C. But the sheer excitement of the event did not make us feel that the night and the water were so cold! We jumped into the river Ganga in search of “Amrit” at the Amrit Muhurt of Mauni Amabasya 10 February 2013.
We walked back to home with huge mass of people around on every road and corner. The police was doing a good job there and I found them very polite, to my surprise! We reached home at around 5am.
It was a really out of the world, divine experience. It can just be experienced and not be defined by any logic or knowledge based explanation. Millions of people are coming here in search of the divine nectar. Clearly, the world’s biggest religious gathering happens when faith meets the collective. It’s said that the gathering was so huge that it could be seen from the space!
In the words of John D. Macomber:
We are witnessing back-of-house success in administration that leads to front-of-house success in the experience for more than a hundred million pilgrims. This event is a big deal for the Republic of India and for the state of Uttar Pradesh and for the city of Allahabad. It needs to go well.
Har Har Gangay!! Har Har Mahadev!!