Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 10:51 GMT
Kumbh Mela: Your experiences
Kumbh Mela - Would you go?
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.

Your reaction

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.
Najam-uz-Zaman, India

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.
Rob, UK

One person's morality is not necessarily the same as another person's

Arvind, UK
I can't believe the comments of Carman from the USA. This person obviously knows nothing about Hinduism when referring to 'those men flashing their private parts in public is so disgusting'. This person fails to realise that one person's morality is not necessarily the same as another person's. We are born naked after all. After all it says in the Bible 'Judge not lest ye be judged yourself'.
Arvind, UK

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.
AG, India

"Home sweet home", that's were I belong

Jennifer Gleeson, England/UK
I honestly think that going to this Mela would be very weird indeed. I don't know how anyone else feels but the idea of jumping into the water with at least a couple of million people puts me off. What about all the pollution the River carries? Does that mean a couple billion/infinitive germs added to the water? No way, I strongly believe the Mela is not for me.
"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?
Camran, USA

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.
Deepali Srivastava, USA

Let people follow their own paths

Srimal, India
Why does a ritual always become something that everyone has to comment on? It is just a ritual that some people go through to fulfil their beliefs. It does not have to put in a tainted light at all. People who want to visit should do so, people who do not should just let the other people do what they want to do in peace. It is not war - it is something spiritual - let people follow their own paths.
Srimal, India

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.
Vivek Manchanda, US/India

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.
Jaazhar, South Africa

What practical purpose will that gathering serve?

Chowdhury, UAE
The water in the river Ganges is already so polluted and contaminated that it is impossible for a sensible person to use. If someone could medically examine the people who are using this polluted water, they would definitely find enormous germs and bacteria. What practical purpose will that gathering serve? Some more water borne disease?
Chowdhury, UAE

I have smelled the river before 70 million people have bathed in it; I have no desire to be anywhere near it afterwards.
Alex, NZ (ex-pat)

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.
Varun, USA

I heard the stories of Kumbh from my Grandmother

Amitabh, USA
When I was growing up I heard the stories of Kumbh from my Grandmother, how massive the gathering was and how they almost lost their child in the stampede etc. There are negatives but that does not deter most people from desiring to go. I have lived in the USA for 15 years but still have that dream, the yearning to go and celebrate like a mad man.
Amitabh, USA

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.
Anil Nagarkoti, USA

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 better use.
Sriram, California, USA

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.
B. Sharma, UK

The meaning of it is deep and sacred

Alok, USA/India
I think this is a beautiful festival. One that should be respected and understood by all for the meaning of it is deep and sacred. It is not just for Hindus, but for people everywhere who can be enlightened. I think that this news site has not given a fair depiction of just how amazing this religious festival is and instead has tried to make it into something that is more of a tourist site. People need to show respect as this is something that is holy to all Hindus around the world and deeply a part of a religion that most westerners have never been able to understand. Being a Hindu is not something that is trendy but something that a part of a persons life and soul.
Alok, USA/India

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.
Arvind, India

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.
Naveen Rao,

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?".
GLobal Citizen,

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.
Raj Savjani, India

I regret not being able to attend it myself

Aditya, USA
The Kumbh Mela is a spiritual event for every Hindu irrespective of caste, belief and ethnicity. It also is a demonstration of the true Hindu ethos where every individual is allowed his own belief and practice but at the same time is a part of the larger Hindu identity. I regret not being able to attend it myself.
Aditya, USA

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.
Alan Cameron, Scotland

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.
Ambrish Varma, India

It is an organised miracle

Sukumar Haldar, USA
It is an organised miracle. I have been to Kumbh earlier. It is worth visiting no matter what reason you find to convince yourself or what religion you follow; you will satisfy all of them. If you can afford it, it is worth every penny you will spend and every minute you will be there. It is also a demonstration of several remarkable qualities that people from the Indian subcontinent have developed over the ages. Tolerance is one of them. 20 to 30 million people who speak 30 distinctly different language get together in this harsh weather and take a dip in one of the deepest rivers (Yamuna) without any lifeguards around and still 99.9 percent go back home safely.
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.
Parth, UK

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.
Concerned Indian, UK/India

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
Shahid Bhatti, Germany

I think the Kumbh Mela is for anyone and everyone that is seeking to gain some spiritual enhancement

Guru Shenoy, United States
I think the Kumbh Mela is for anyone and everyone that is seeking to gain some spiritual enhancement. Interested westerners are welcome and should indeed make it an experience. It is not limited to Hinduism or Hindus although it is a part of its culture. The commercialisation of this event has only led it to send the impression that it is India's version of the western 'Woodstock'. It is not so. The Kumbh Mela is more introspective and minus the drugs, booze and aimlessly letting go in a puddle of mud.
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.
Riamu Awan, UK

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.
Praveen Tiwari, India

I witnessed the build-up to the Kumbh Mela

Thomas, UK
I have just spent five weeks in India and visited Allahabad last week where I witnessed the build-up to the Kumbh Mela. It was difficult to move around due to the heavy military presence which had closed or blocked many of the roads. Luckily we found a boat owner who managed to cut through the mayhem and get us down to the confluence of the Ganges and Jumna rivers. It was a very spiritual experience although earlier visits to Varanasi and Pushkar were much more meaningful and peaceful.
Thomas, UK

It's a religious festival for Hindus not a tourist attraction for bored Westerners with no meaning in their lives.
Gerry, Scotland

Perhaps this would be a cheaper, cleaner and more enlightening alternative to the cancelled Glastonbury festival?
Benjamin, London, UK

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
Jason Hardy, England

Of course I would go. Not being a Hindu is no reason to avoid the biggest get-together of all-time.
Jacko, Australia

Kumbh Mela is truly unique

Prashant Jeloka, USA
Kumbh Mela is truly unique, not so much because of its size, but more because of the way India is represented along the coast of the Ganges in Allahabad. I have never been there, but look forward to going in 2013, the next time that it will be held. While it is a gathering of the predominant Hindus, it is a great opportunity to educate people on the evils of hating other religions like Islam.
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.
Kym Overy, UK

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.
Pete Morgan-Lucas, Wiltshire, UK

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.
Lavlesh, India

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

09 Jan 01 | South Asia
Huge Hindu festival begins
08 Jan 01 | South Asia
In Pictures: Maha Kumbh Mela
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Talking Point stories