You could simply call it the largest religious gathering in the world or you could describe it as a feverish search for salvation and spiritual meaning. If you’re given to a little more drama, you could also say it is the greatest show on earth. Here’s a story about the Kumb, brought alive with pictures from George Koruth.
Also, if visiting the Kumbh Mela has been on your wishlist, there’s still a chance to make it to this year’s pilgrimage in Nashik. Though it started over month back, the main events only take place later this month. Here’s Skyscanner’s guide on everything you need to know, from how to get there to what to expect.
(The closest airport for Nashik is at Pune)
1. The significance of Kumbh Mela
Legend has it that in a battle between demi gods and demons, a few drops of nectar fell in the holy cities of Allahabad, Nashik, Ujjain & Haridwar, making these cities the hosts for the event once every three years. Pilgrims believe taking a dip in the waters will lead to salvation and rid them of not just their sins, but also the sins of 88 previous generations!
2. Where to go
This year’s main event is being held at Trimbakeshwar, the holy city from where the river Godawari originates. 28 kilometers from Nashik, Trimbakeshwar gains special significance for being home to one of the 12 jyotirlingas in India and the city is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The city’s location at the foothills of the Brahmagiri and Gangadwar mountains adds to its natural beauty while ensuring pleasant weather.
3. How to get there
A part of the journey will have to be undertaken by road. If you are travelling from Mumbai you will traverse a distance of 225 kilometers along NH3 while Pune to Nashik is just a little shorter at 210 kilometers. You can also take the train to Nashik. The closest station from Trimbakeshwar is the Nashik Road railway station, from where you can take one of the many buses or rent a cab.
4. Things to do
The main purpose for any pilgrim at Kumbh is taking a dip in the holy waters. Once you’re done with that though, hanging out with the sadhus, inarguably the biggest attraction at Kumbh can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can listen to or engage in religious discourses or just be around them to get a peek into their philosophies and lives. There are also dance performances and groups that enact mythological tales in pandals. If you’re one of the many the trigger-happy visitors, nothing will throw up richer subjects for your lens to capture than Kumbh.
5. Where to stay
Most of the boarding options in and around Trimbakeshwar are budget friendly and easy on the pocket, though if you want to combine your trip with a more luxurious vacation, you can choose to stay in some of the high-end resorts and hotels in and around Nashik, as long as you cater for some extra travel time everyday. If you plan to stay around Trimbakeshwar, you will find plenty of lodges (visit www.kumbhmela.com) or you can sign up for a camping package. The camps range from extremely spartan to more luxurious depending on the package. If you would like to stay in the centre of action and don’t mind a little more adventure, you can pitch a tent on the grounds of Kumbh itself, the government provides a long stretch of land for visitors to set up base.
6. Things to keep in mind
Keeping in mind the diverse crowds from all parts of the country as well the sheer numbers, it’s best to keep a lookout for certain things, both to help yourself and to do your bit to keep the city clean. The most important thing authorities will warn you about is watching out for any signs of a stampede. A sad truth of several Indian religious events — just the number of pilgrims can turn a minor rush into a major catastrophe. In the same vein, you will also be better off avoiding any boats that may be overcrowded. Visitors are also asked to dress appropriately, avoid using soaps while bathing in the holy river and the use of plastic is prohibited. This year, the organisers have taken a leaf out the Cannes rulebook and created no-selfie zones to avoid any bottlenecks.
7. Plan your itinerary
Kick off events such as the flag hoisting at Ram Kunda and the first and second shahi snan are already over. But there are two more dates for the shahi snan in September. The third shahi snan will take place on the 18th of this month, while the fourth one is slated for the 25th.
Read more: Last minute weekend getaways from Bangalore