EXCITING JOURNEY AT THE KUMBH MELA (3rd Feb 2019)
Tonight will be the largest gathering of mankind in its history with four crore pilgrims as millions are pouring in with bags and children on their head walking for miles and miles with faith, love and devotion in their eyes. This is true "dharma" This is our true "Bharat".
People say that one can get lost in the kumbh, but i believe that this is the place to find oneself. The travel in this extraordinary divine energy should be within.
Only then can one learn to be alone in the crowd.
My in-depth Kumbh Mela report - part 1 (4th Feb 2019)
Things can be seen in superficial, subtle and causal ways (स्थूल, सूक्ष्म, कारण रूप).
Kumbh Mela is spread over 47sqkms temporary housing of lakhs of people on a soft, sandy, wet land near the rivers Ganga and Yamuna at Prayag.
The mela is beautifully planned with lakhs of tents on wide walkwayz paved with metal sheets, 1.25 lakh toilets, cheap stay and food for poor, constant cleaning of roads by thousands, reasonably clean rivers, well designed water supply, drainage and security who are well trained and behaved (we asked many policemen for different directions and roads - and everyone knew all sectors and were helpful). Could not believe that we were in UP.
The methodical procession on the 4th morning with crores of excited people shouting "Har har mahadev" without much pushing and jostling was an example of brilliant crowd management.
The scale of operations and rush of people was mind-boggling. It was said that there were 5 crore people yesterday. These look awe-inspiring but theoretical numbers, but the moment you experience the crowd, its just surreal.
Just goes to show that once the administration decides to do something, it can achieve unimaginable success, provided the duration is relatively short. The huge election exercise is another example of the same.
In-depth Kumbh report - part 2 - Subtle (5th Feb)
Millions of people, thousands of temporary ashrams of saints and temples, air full of havans, hymns and prayers.
While there may be charlatans, fake sadhus, power politics and egos- what i observed was something very interesting.
There are crores of people of all creeds and castes - they can enter any ashram, meet any saint, eat together in community kitchens spread across the kumbh. No distinction.
There are all kinds of saints - brahmin, kshatriyas, vaishya and shudras. There are men, women and transgenders. There are people from all parts of the country and the world. Sikhs, sufis, jains, Buddhists, some muslims too. Anyone and everyone searching for the TRUTH.
The hierarchical, caste structure of Hindu society is not visible anywhere. Whenever one attends any lectures or speeches, all we hear is about searching the underlying unity of all beings. There may be exceptions, but too few and far.
The media reports regarding discrimination and separation based on stray incidents seems so distant and false. The proponents of divide-and-rule are trying their best to find and accentuate faultlines in our society. But, Hindu society seems to be truly moving in the right direction - of overcoming caste differences and searching for unity among all castes and religions. Its a long and arduous path, but in the kumbh, it seems as if the saints are showing the path.
Much needs to be done, but we are on the way.
Musings: (6th Feb 2019)
Before writing the third part of in-depth report of the kumbh mela, I would like to advice many who are justifiably cynical of religious people and such melas. I understand their concerns as there are a large number of exhibitionists, charlatans, fakes and frauds in the religious arena.
Let me paraphrase from the book "Autobiography of a Yogi".
Yukteshwar Giri goes to the kumbh mela in Prayag in 1894. There he meets Babaji, the head of his lineage for the first time. This is his conversation.
"What do you think of the Kumbha Mela?’ Babaji enquired.
"This fair is nothing but a chaos of noise and beggars. I wonder if Western scientists, patiently enlarging the realms of knowledge for the practical good of mankind, are not more pleasing to God than these idlers who profess religion but concentrate on alms. I am greatly disappointed, sir.’ Yukteshwar said, ‘Somehow saints and this commotion don’t seem to belong together.’
“‘Child,’ the master said, ‘for the faults of the many, judge not the whole. Everything on earth is of mixed character, like a mingling of sand and sugar. Be like the wise ant which seizes only the sugar, and leaves the sand untouched. Though many sadhus here still wander in delusion, yet the mela is blessed by a few men of God-realization.’ unquote.
Kumbh Mela report 3- the causal (deepest level) (8th Feb 2019)
Science, human development and intellectual growth has been growing in two directions for many centuries: the external and the internal.
The western scientists, philosophers, planners, politicians, medical men and researchers have been instrumental in huge strides for mankind, especially in European and American countries for the last few centuries. These are outwardly organizing structures. But just external development is incomplete. People in western society are suffering loneliness, dissatisfaction and are searching for answers to bigger questions.
The other method which is more powerful is of sourcing knowledge by diving deeper into one's self and through deep study and introspection creating technology and processes to enrich existence. This is called the Indian knowledge system (IKS). While the search, results and documentation of this IKS has been present since thousands of years, it is only now that the philosophy and the usage of some of these IKS like meditation, yoga, ayurveda etc is being recognised and followed by the world.
This evolving philosophy, science and knowledge has been documented by various wise men over a period of time. Not centred on one person or one period.
Modern westernised indians look sceptically at various processes like tantra, mantra and yantra. These processes have been deeply researched and these powerful energy-enhancing techniques have been masked and offered as rituals to make it popular and easy-to-use. Branding hindu religion as superstition and ritualistic is like throwing the baby with the bath water.
Different paths towards self-realization have been intelligently structured depending on the inclination of a seeker whether meditation (राजयोग) , devotion(भक्ति योग), sewa (कर्म योग) or Knowledge (ज्ञान योग).
In this kumbh, was fortunate to meet key members of the leadership of the hindu religious organizations that has been operating with great effectiveness for over 800 years- with its myriad संप्रदाय, अखाड़ा, आश्रम, मंदिर and other institutions. They have their own rules and policies that have been operating since over 800 years extremely successfully. These policies are well defined, all-encompassing, just and constantly evolving. It is this organization that has enabled the Hindu worldview to withstand and sustain various aggressions by foreign invaders and served the religion equally well during monarchy, foreign rule and now western democracy.
People of different beliefs, different castes and gender are part of the leadership. Its principles of collective leadership, conflict-resolution and consensual, collaborative decision-making process is truly impressive.
The kumbh has been designed to be a regular meeting place of various branches of these organizations, seekers from all over the world (some of them who only come out of their abodes in the Himalayas) and the lay people in demarcated places during times when the planetary position is at its most powerful.
In the kumbh mela, you may find some of the greatest rishis (the scientists), saffron - clad seekers of truth (sadhus) who have left everything for the ultimate search, the warriors (Naga sadhus - who stay naked even in the biting cold), some God-touched souls as well as researchers in different aspects of life. These are the true astronauts who are trying to stretch the boundaries of humanity.
This is a different world- a world of seekers for self-realization, a world of people in search of the Truth, a world focusing as much on science, validation and facts as the western world-but with a more holistic and integrated approach.
But if one wants to look for those diamonds, one has to look beyond the dust, the noise, the chaos, the fakes and the charlatans. One needs to look deeper - beyond the apparent/superficial beyond the subtle to the causal.
This kumbh, I pray that there should be a synthesis between both worlds - the western and indian. That would be mutually enriching and could transform humanity.
Mayank Gandhi 9920788909