The child of Kumbh Mela

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Simone Bardi

INDIA The Kumbh Mela is the largest spiritual gathering in the world, the Hindu symbol for all that is and that exists, the celebration of knowledge and life, the source of divine beauty.

Kumbh Mela 2013 - Allahabad, IndiaA legend, a pot (Kumbh) full of amrit, the nectar of immortality, an inevitable battle between gods and demons, a god flying away with the pot, a chase that went on for 12 days and 12 nights (12 human years), four drops of the sacred nectar falling over four sacred places: Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik. Four holy cities where the event (Mela) is celebrated, every three years.

So every 12 years, in Prayag (Allahabad) – at the confluence of the three sacred rivers: the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythological (invisible) Saraswati – this amazing event of huge proportions takes place.

A holy ritual for millions of Hindus, the act of plunging into the waters in the most auspicious days of the new moon to be absolved from all their sins and to end the cycle of rebirth.

A rare opportunity to see this huge crowd that moves in perfect harmony, millions of people gathered in a strip of land that dives into the water. Unknown tribes, hidden ethnic groups that expose themselves to the world uniquely for this event and then disappear again for other 12 years.

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We are there, discreetly on the river bank, with this huge crowd of Sadhus sitting cross-legged on the floor and praying, right in front of us. They must be a thousand. We watch them in awe, we take some pictures trying not to attract their attention too much. In the peace of their rituals is easy to get lost, to let ourselves go and relax to the point of not noticing that something is happening. The prayer ends, they get up all at once and they start to run all together to their next destination, straight in our direction. It seems like all the other Indians know very well what to do and how to avoid them, we don’t.

Kumbh Mela 2013 - Allahabad, India

But while we are so focused on keeping our eyes on the ritual, there is someone who has kept his eyes on us all the time. A child, maybe 10 or 12 years old, a few meters away from where we stand, fascinated by the unusual presence of two foreigners. He realizes that we are in completely panicking, that we will be overwhelmed by all those people, that we are not able to react to that situation. So he makes his way through the crowd, finds a way to reach us and looks at us with an uncommon bold look. He would like to say something but he doesn’t speak English and so he does the most natural thing in the world. He smiles at us as to say “everything will be fine”, he takes us by the hand and starts walking. We follow him, his head keeps turning around, he looks ahead and looks at us, looks ahead and looks at us, making sure we do not let his hands go.

And in a few moments (which to us seemed endless) we find ourselves in a so-called blind spot, on the safe side, astonished, while we look at the latest dozens of Sadhus passing us by and run away. The boy keeps smiling at us, so proud to have been at the right time in the right place. He did not ask for anything, no reward, no tip, he was just pleased to have earned our gratitude, saving us and happy to be able to share this experience with his friends. Eventually he accepted a “foreign” 20 eurocents coin as evidence to be shown to the sceptic ones.

We haven’t seen him anymore after that fact, but we are grateful we shared a few moments of our lives with him. This precious little memory has nothing to do with the spirituality of the event. It’s “only” pure humanity. After all, the Kumbh Mela is that, too.

Kumbh Mela 2013 - Allahabad, India

Maha Kumbh Mela 2013 in pictures | www.simonebardi.net

Simone Bardi