AMONGST THE BELIEVERS – THE KUMBH MELA AT ALLAHABAD, 2001 – 2019
Since the Mahakumbh Mela of 2001, held in Allahabad at the turn of the millennium, I have been visiting this largest gathering of humans on the planet for every subsequent edition, in 2007, 2013 and in 2019. Shot entirely on film in the panoramic format the work explores the simple beauty of faith as seen through the pilgrims from rural areas who traditionally throng to this festival.
According to Hindu Mythology, at the beginning of creation all the Gods were under a curse that made them weak. Brahma, the Creator in the Hindu pantheon
of Gods, advised them to retrieve the Amrit, the nectar of immortality, from the ocean. The Gods sought the help of the Demons and together they churned the ocean to extract the Amrit from it. As Dhanwantari, the divine healer appeared carrying the Kumbh, or pot, of Amrit, a battle ensued between the Gods and Demons over its possession. During this celestial war, a few drops of nectar fell in four different places in India – Allahabad, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. Since then, when the planets are aligned, the Kumbh Mela is held in
each of these places in a twelve-year rotating cycle. The most important of these are the Mahakumbh Mela, which are held every twelfth year. The Ardh Kumbh Mela, the fair held every six years, is next in importance. The celebration acquires even more significance when it is held at Allahabad — at the confluence of the holy rivers the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. Hindus believe that bathing at that confluence
washes away all the sins and ends the cycle of rebirth and death. Recognized by UNESCO as an “Intangible cultural heritage of humanity” India’s religious festival, the Kumbh Mela, is the largest gathering of humans on the planet.