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Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 10:51 GMT
Kumbh Mela: Your experiences
It is being described as the biggest festival in the world - the Kumbh Mela has officially begun in the northern Indian city of Allahabad.
The Kumbh Mela, or Grand Pitcher Festival, takes place every 12 years and this year about 65 million people are expected to make their way to the Ganges river to purify their sins.
This year's festival coincides with the beginning of the new millennium in the Western calendar, making it even more auspicious for the pilgrims.
Have you been to the festival? Was it worthwhile; or more spectacle than spiritual?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Kumbh Festival is no doubt a great event for Indians as well as foreigners. We have witnessed the event in the past and it will be on in future also. The holy dip in river Ganges is some thing that no Hindu ever wants to miss. It is believed that after taking a bath in the Ganges one becomes sacred and innocent as a new-born child. But belief is just a belief. The Ganges is now so polluted that taking bath or even just a dip is quite dangerous. I just want to tell the people through this media that we should come forward and force the officials to take some major steps and make the holy river clean, pure and sacred as it was some 200 years back. This will be the best sacrifice from all of us.
Yes, I was fortunate to attend the last one in 1989. I did not bathe in the water but I enjoyed the inspiring atmosphere. It is sad to see celebrities and others commercialising this event.
As regards comments on cleanliness and the strange sights of naked men, the reason why such sadhus do not dress up, or cover themselves in ashes is that it is to signify to God that they are above the need for material desires and only want spiritual satisfaction (salvation from reincarnation). This is the strong message of Hinduism.
No. I have not yet come across any example where one has come back from a dip at the Kumbh Mela, a reformed and changed person. The concept of washing away sins, as claimed by many doesn't really make sense, unless it is accompanied by an inner urge to commit no more of them, but that is normally not the case. Hence, I feel that a visit to the Kumbh Mela would be worthwhile only when one makes a firm resolve to listen to his inner voice only - otherwise it would mean just another pleasure trip.
"Home sweet home", that's were I belong.
Jennifer Gleeson, England/UK
This whole Mela seems like a big GERM! How can people even think about going into the Ganges River which is polluted with god knows what?
And all those men flashing their private parts in public is so disgusting! What kind of celebration is this?
The Kumbh Mela is a huge event which has serious religious significance for many. To me, purely from an intellectual perspective the Mela has great appeal because it condones a spartan and ascetic lifestyle which is in stark contrast to the mindless trap of consumerism that we seem to be caught in. The media, unfortunately, is zooming in on random expressions of Hindu fundamentalism and missing the real point.
Its all about faith. That faith which brings 65 million people together to celebrate and invites the rest of the world to rejoice with them is unique to Hinduism. "The world is one family" is the message which has been propagated since before Christ by Hindus, but is only now being appreciated in many parts of the world and still not appreciated by many in the world. Please don't glamorise it - it is just a way of life in the myriad ways of life on this planet.
The essence of every religion has been teachings - teachings of the way a society should be so as to provide all humans with the best living conditions and peace. But be it Hinduism, Islam or whatever, the interest of the religious elite has always been in making religion just rituals without either they or their followers often knowing what the religion truly asks from them. They would be doing all they can just for the rituals and yet spending their lives totally contrary to the principles of that very religion. To go for a religion which is based on the caste system and human inequality - what a waste of time and resources and defying logic altogether.
I have smelled the river before 70 million people have bathed in it; I have no desire to be anywhere near it afterwards.
I wish to be there next time. This mela truly depicts how people of different regions, languages and cultures can come together for one cause.
I attended Maha Kumbh Mela in 1977 in Allahabad. I was only 13 years old and it was a lot of fun. I wish I could attend again.
I am a Hindu Brahmin. While I do agree that people
should practice their religion, this sort of mass ritual
is definitely something I would avoid. There have
been more accidents at these gatherings than any
other national event. Stampedes break out often.
I shudder when I think of the amounts of pollutants
getting into the river.
The cost of organising this event could be put to
In reply to Mr Awan of the UK, the Kumbh Mela entitles people of all beliefs to reach out spiritually. The core of Hinduism is that there is one God (Bhagavan) regardless of personal background. The "other" Gods are in fact virtues of God, who symbolise the true power and diversity of God. The Kumbh Mela allows people to reach out to God, knowing what a diverse world we live in.
The reason for the the Kumbh Mela being taken place in Allahabad, is simply because the Mela has been practised there for thousands of years. Long before the place was conquered and renamed.
I would like to say that Allahabad is actually called Prayag. And as people have been talking about the caste system it is festivals like these which bring people of all castes, faiths and religions together. Yes, the commercialisation of the festival, that is not good.
I think this is a very important festival for Hindus. I just came back from there and had a spiritual experience. It did not matter that I am
from a low caste just being present there was a great moment of my life.
Is this even an issue worth talking about. Kumbh is a festival for Hindus and let them celebrate it the way they want it. Have you ever asked "Will you ever want to be part of Christmas celebrations in Vatican?".
As per usual the UK media has taken it upon themselves to portray India as badly as possible. An example of this is that every TV channel in every news broadcast shows some sadhus smoking illegal substances. These people only account for a small number of people at the Kumbh Mela and yet the media concentrates on them to create a bad image of India rather than the other much better accomplishments of the Mela.
No doubt there will be the "gurus" who will be looking for the rich to finance their non-productive lifestyle. Equally there will be true spiritual devotees who will return with a strengthened will to serve humanity and make the world a better place. I just wish these Brahmins realised though, that there is only one caste, the human caste.
Being born and brought up in Allahabad, we would make it a point to go and visit the Kumbha and the Magh Mela (the yearly version of the Kumbha Mela) every year. As children, it used to be more of a picnic/ outing for us.
The growth of an entire city on the banks of the two rivers is absolutely mind-boggling. Another thing we noticed (or did not notice) was the repeated use of the word 'Hindu Festival'. It was a tradition and a part of our culture that
all of us were happy to be a part of.
Sukumar Haldar, USA
I think a comparison should be made between the cost of the Millennium Dome and the cost of the Kumbh Mela which will attract over ten times more people in a few days than the Dome did in a year and the fact that the Kumbh Mela was 200 times cheaper to organise than the Dome.
It is really a sad thing to see
so many people in India, content
to be considered a lower
caste by this religion. It is only a
celebration for the Brahmins who
are the upper caste. Sorry, I
will not promote something that
violates the fundamental rights
of my brothers and sisters to have
equal spiritual rights! Just because
of being born in a lower caste
one can't be a priest! Sorry, I
believe we are all born with the
same rights and have the right
to all spiritual truths.
It looks a bit scary as everyone seems to be smoking drugs and covered in ashes....can be very easy to catch a disease near the Ganges where the ashes of the dead are thrown and even dead bodies thrown in.... not for me
Guru Shenoy, United States
I am amazed that all the International media has missed a great irony...A major Hindu festival being held in a town call Allahabad. Allah Abad means a place where Allah's (God and not god) people shall dwell.
Allah's believers have a doctrine or belief that there is only one God which is in complete contrast to Hindu's many gods.
I am very happy that I am going to participate again in the first Kumbh of the millennium. It is a mega event where you experience unique variety of Hinduism at one place. Traditional art, music, religion, philosophy, faith etc everything can be experienced at one spot. There is also a possibility that I may meet a great spiritual master who can help me towards Enlightenment.
It's a religious festival for Hindus not a tourist attraction for bored Westerners with no meaning in their lives.
Perhaps this would be a cheaper, cleaner and more enlightening alternative to the cancelled Glastonbury festival?
The Kumbh should not be sold as a tourist spot. I've been to India many times and respect the beliefs and traditions of the country very much. But I am saddened to see how package deals and the like are spoiling this great place
Of course I would go. Not being a Hindu is no reason to avoid the biggest get-together of all-time.
Prashant Jeloka, USA
I went to the last one 4 years ago in Haridwar and stayed on an island with a group of Sadhus. It was probably one of the most amazing things I have ever done in my life! I am not a Hindu but one month I lived the most basic life of a Sadhu, eating, sleeping and attending the rituals with them. It is not somewhere that I feel most people could cope with and definitely not as a tourist destination. But if you want to experience a life totally unlike anything you have ever seen then go. You'll never look at the world in quite the same way again.
Since I don't believe in sin, the idea of going somewhere to have my
sins washed away is utterly irrelevant. I'd rather go skiing.
Once you are a part of that crowd of humanity, you lose all emotions except for some unknown divine excitement. One may not realise it then but it leaves a permanent mark on your psyche.
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