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Kumbha Mela 2001 : Picture of the Day
Questions and Answers on the Maha Kumbh Mela

Question 1 :

In the January issue of Yoga International, you suggested that the maha kumbha mela in Allahabad in January 2001 is an opportunity to participate in transforming the consciousness of the planet while transforming our individual consciousness. But how does this event differ from any other cultural or religious gathering?

The maha kumbha mela is unlike any other cultural and social event in the world, and I hope it will continue to maintain this unique spirit. Originally it was a purely spiritual event. It originated with the intention of creating a collective consciousness to revitalize nature. As I mentioned in my recent article, this event was first held in Vedic times in the form of a special yajna, known as ashvamedha (the horse sacrifice), which entailed sacrificing one's personal pleasure and interests for the welfare of all. This grand group meditation was performed by highly evolved sages and was independent of the religious beliefs or cultural values prevalent in the region at the time.

In the current version of the kumbha mela you find everything you can imagine: the full spectrum of Hindu religious activities, from the mundane to the sublime; elaborate exhibitions marketing the wares of major companies as well as the products and services of non-profit charitable organizations; and artists, craftsmen, entertainers, swamis, priests, astrologers, fortune-tellers, and beggars all seeking to catch the attention of the crowds.

But why does this ocean of people come here? For one simple reason: to bathe at the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna, and Sarasvati Rivers, with the intention of washing off their impurities and becoming better people.

Only they know to what extent they accomplish their goal, but in observing the faith and dedication that pulls millions of people to this spot we can conclude that this event is sustained by a power that transcends religious fanaticism and the demands of the marketplace. The crowd has no affiliation with any organization, although organizations try to affiliate themselves with the crowd. The multitude pouring into Allahabad from all corners of India and many other parts of the world are pilgrims. They participate in this event because the ancient sages have demonstrated that bathing and praying here generates a transformative energy.

In addition to the main crowd, however, there are thousands of aspirants and adepts who take advantage of the energy emitting from this particular place at this particular time to commit themselves to an intense practice. Both faithful pilgrims and dedicated practitioners participate in this event with one intention: contributing to the collective consciousness through personal purification. This intention is what makes the kumbha mela unique.

Out of millions only a few thousand come as tourists, reporters, photographers, and filmmakers. They focus on the sensational: nude sadhus, ≥drug-addicted holy men,≤ and priests and swamis displaying their status. And they are the ones who see the kumbha mela as a surface spectacle. What goes on inside the thousands of tents pitched away from the glamorous spots along the main roads remains unknown to casual tourists and the media. There millions of people are engaged in acts of charity, fasting, meditating, reciting the scriptures, and a month-long study in the company of learned teachers.

To me, the kumbha mela is the unbelievably grand ashram of all the sages who ever lived‹their presence permeates the whole region at this time. To those whose heart is closed to the selfless love and compassion of the immortal sages, this is merely a grand, showy pageant‹but even they cannot totally escape the subtle influence of the transformative energy that is generated at the kumbha mela.

Article provided by the Himalayan Institute's online newspaper, The Kumbha Mela Times. To get your free subscription to this online newspaper, see