Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ardh Kumbh Mela

Image from Sadhus of the Kumbh-Copyright 2001 Tewfic El-Sawy

The Ardh Kumbh Mela is currently in full swing in Allahabad, India. This is one of the holiest Hindu festivals, when millions of Hindus bathe in the confluence of the rivers Ganges and Yamuna. This year's festival marks the halfway point of the major Kumbh Mela, which Hindus celebrate every 12 years in Allahabad, where ancient scriptures say a drop of the nectar of immortality landed after a 12-day celestial war.

By the time the current festival ends on February 16, more than 70 million pilgrims are expected to have bathed in the river.

I attended the Maha Kumbh Mela in 2001 which was held at the same spot, and I always marveled as to how women kept their modesty and poise while bathing. This article speaks to that: here

I photographed the naked sadhus in the above picture ( see my Sadhus of the Kumbh Mela multimedia gallery of my main website) in January 2001 during the massive festival. Due to complaints by the sadhus' religious authorities in Allahabad, photographers were not allowed to photograph the nagas during their march to the bathing site. We were ordered by the police to kneel on the ground and not aim our cameras at the passing sadhus, Naturally, all of us photographed using wide angles from our kneeling positions. The sadhus knew what was going on as they could hear the collective shutters! Notwithstanding, some of the police used their 'lathis' (bamboo canes) on a few photographers for breaking the rules. So we all had to suffer for the transgressions of a few.

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