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The 2010 Kumbha Mela: A photo feature

The following photo feature captures the first snan (holy bath) and three Royal baths or shahi snans of the Hindu Naga sadhus or saints who attend the Kumbha Mela in large numbers. The photographs were taken over a period of four months from the month of January to April 2010.


At the ghat

Kumbha (Sanskrit word for Pitcher) Mela (a ‘meeting’) is a sacred Hindu pilgrimage that occurs four times every twelve years at the following four locations of India, depending on the position of the planet of Bṛhaspati (Jupiter) and the sun:

  • Prayag, Allahabad (in the state of Uttar Pradesh) at the confluence of three holy rivers - Ganga (Ganges), Yamuna and Saraswati
  • Haridwar (in the state of Uttarakhand) where the river Ganga enters the plains from Himalayas
  • Ujjain (in Madhya Pradesh), on the banks of Shipra river, and
  • Nasik (in Maharashtra) on the banks of Godavari river.


Naga Saadhu

The origin of the Kumbha Mela can be traced back to the Hindu theories on evolution, the Samudra manthan episode (Churning of the ocean of milk), which has been mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana.


On the other side

According to Hindu mythology, after a long battle with the Asuras or demons, the Gods had lost their strength and decided to churn the Ksheera Sagara (primordial ocean of milk) for amrita (the nectar of immortality) to invigorate themselves. So they proposed a temporary agreement with the demons to work together for churning out the nectar and sharing it equally thereafter.


Resting a while

However, when the Kumbha (urn) containing the amrita appeared, a fight ensued that lasted for twelve days and twelve nights (equivalent to twelve human years) as the Gods and demons fought in the sky for the pot of amrita. During the battle, Lord Vishnu flew away with the Kumbha of elixir spilling drops of amrita at four places: Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.  And for this reason, millions of Hindus congregate and bathe in the holy rivers, to this day, to celebrate this moment as a part of the Kumbha Mela. 


A Saadhu watches

Photos by Udit Kulshrestha 

More Kumbha Mela Photos