A Journey through the Kumbh Mela

ChHattisgarh Tourism Board, managing director, Santosh K Misra talks of his experience of the Maha Kumbh and the inspiration behind his coffee table book, ‘Spirit of Kumbh’

Published: 10th March 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th March 2015 04:01 AM   |  A+A-

A journey through

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. However, when the subject is the Kumbh, a picture is in fact worth a million words. Every photo is wrapped in a story; every shot unravels a long eventful tale – some from the past, some from the present, and others revealing the future. Describing the spirit of Kumbh defies words; one has to see and experience Kumbh to fathom the rich textures and flavours of sentiments flowing freely. To the vast majority this is a journey indeed to another world, separated from the humdrum everyday material existence. People from all over the world and all races and ages come to experience the Kumbh, its human extravaganza, its antiquity embedded in present day modernity, its purity of devotion wrapped in its managed chaos. This book is a result of the spiritual quest of the author over the last five years which includes two of the holiest Maha Kumbhs, Haridwar in 2010 and Prayag in 2013.

“I have travelled extensively along the river Ganga to understand the spirituality which flows in its waters. Everywhere I went - Haridwar, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna and Munger - all these places narrate the same story-the eternity of soul. The unified spirit of the country, it seems, is dissolved in this river. I had some unforgettable experiences as I tried to capture an epic unfolding before my eyes with a severely limited device called camera. I went on a spiritual journey and I returned realising that the journey continues. Through this book I have tried to take the reader on the same journey,” says the author Santosh K Misra, who is also the managing director of Chhattisgarh Tourism Board.

Why did you feel like the story of Maha Kumbh needed to be told?

One of the most amazing facts about Maha Kumbh is that it is the world’s largest yet most peaceful religious gathering. Millions of devotees visit during Maha Kumbh, yet the crowd management is par excellence. Each person though alone becomes other person’s strength. The sentiments of being in a sacred place like Kumbh are so intense that they are beyond words. I had some unforgettable experiences as I tried to capture an epic unfolding before my eyes with a severely limited device called camera. I went on a spiritual journey and I returned realising that the journey continues. Through this book I have tried to take the reader on the same journey.

What difficulties did you face while on your journeys?

I had to take multiple visits to the the Kumbh Mela and came across several challenges. We were almost crushed in the potential stampede (which luckily was brought under quick control) at Prayag Kumbh. Later that day there was a very lucky escape from the stampede at the Allahabad railway station where 35 people lost their lives in front of us.

Another major constraint was the time. It was quite a challenge sometimes to be able to go to a place on the exact day you wanted.

What is the most significant thing you discovered through your travels that found a place in your book?

The Kumbh Mela has an everlasting impact on a person’s life. It is an experience and it never ceases to surprise. I came across many interesting facts that found a place in this book. The most fascinating being the visits of personalities like Huien Tsang, Mark Twain to this holy place. The concept of renunciation of Naga Sadhus is what I have tried to  convey with a series of pictures. I have travelled extensively along the river Ganga to understand the spirituality which flows in its waters. Everywhere I went - Haridwar, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna and Munger - all these places narrate the same story-the eternity of soul. The unified spirit of the country, it seems, is dissolved in the Ganges.

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