Last weekend, on the auspicious occasion of Maha Shivratri, I had the good fortune of visiting Kumbh Mela and take a dip into the Holy Ganges. It was the largest human gathering ever on earth, I was told and the optics at the Mela ground testified this statement.
The magnanimity of the event can be inferred from the fact that the temporary tent city was probably larger than the Vatican city. Memories from my recent trip to the Vatican museum were fresh and came hovering over me. Though their endeavour in terms of spiritual gains may be similar both these places, however, differ starkly in their approach to accomplish the same.
This one, the Kumbh, characterised by a kaleidoscope of dancing emotions, floating hope and mystified chantings personified into diverse bodily images. Much more loud and rustic compared to the elegant yet lifeless walkways of Vatican museum. Imagine all the Bernini and Michael Angelo along with their countless sculptures and paintings were to come alive in their original rustic form… That’s Kumbh.
It would be wrong to say that the streets were full of people for their slow unidirectional movement into packed columns gave the faint yet the only sense as to where the streets would have been in this human sea. The air itself was thick with heavy chantings of…”Har Har Gange’.
I walked through the crowded streets bewildered, looking at some of the strangest creatures I had ever seen, a clan of Naga Sadhus running towards the river amidst the heavy chantings of Har Har Mahadeo, a few had their bodies drenched in ashes and were engaged in strange posturings, like snake charmers of the ancient era or perhaps a crude imitations of Lord Shiva. Of course, there were others who seem to be engaged in serious meditation and preachings.
As I walked further I came across a row of people sitting beside the fort wall along the Yamuna bank as if arranged like display stalls. They were felicitating ‘Sankalp’ with the very limited gadgetry that they possessed. A small rectangular mat with a small heap of rice, few stones, incense sticks and few colour-powders.
One man amongst them must be in his mid-twenties, Chandan spread on his forehead and body covered with dry ash, caught my attention. He was pinning some sort of ritual to an elderly woman. The Mantras he was chanting, was incomprehensible. I stood watching him. When he was finished with the lady, he looked at me donning business smile on his face and said,
” You want to do Sankalp? ”
” What’s that ?” I asked. The further conversation went something like this.
” Sankalp… You don’t know?…” he continued after a slight pause ” .. You wish to make any pledge to yourself or to the Gods… I can sanctify that.”
” I have many things to pledge for to myself why should I tell you and what’s your role in that anyway?” I said defyingly.
“I can sanctify your oath with the help of mantras. and you don’t need to tell me what they are either” he went on persuading.
“In exchange for my money!”
“Yes, of course, any amount you decide”
“Why should I give you money?”
” Then why should I help you?… Why should God help you If you aren’t ready for any sacrifices?
” You think you have a connection with God any more than I do, that He will listen to you?”
“I am an agent of God and I have the mantras that can testify and convey your pledge to him”
“Well, I think you are just a big fake, a big cheater and nothing more. Do you even know what Kumbh is all about?” I said continuing the onslaught that I thought will expose him?
“Do you know?…” He said in a tone that was part irritation, part conviction and part bouncing back effect.
I narrated the mythological story to him which he listened blankly, “Kumbh Literally means a pot…. the pot carrying the holy nectar of immortality” I replied finishing my knowledge excerpt with a boastful sense of pride.
“So you have come here to fill your pot with the nectar of immortality?” he was clearly unnerved.
“Your mind itself is a big pot that is filled with so many mortal things… what are you carrying in your pot ?” he asked looking up to me mocking my knowledge.and continued.
“… you need to empty your pot first before you can fill it with anything else…by the way. do you really wish for immortality in this mundane mortal world full of suffering all around? I certainly don’t…”
he took a brief sigh and continued
“… And about this holy nectar or the Amrita, as you say, why should anyone wish for the thing that itself, since its origin, has stood as a testimony to the eternal fight between Gods themselves,”
I stood stunned as if his question had created a deep crater in my spiritual conscience that I was finding hard to cope up with.
Before we could continue our discussion further he started packing his stuff hurridly and I saw that all others from the adjoining row had already run off.
A policeman had come stroking with his lathi
“Sir you look like an educated man… don’t waste your time with them. They are not registered with the Mela authorities and this Ram Avtar is not even a Pandit, he is a mere sweeper just looking for some extra money.
From Yamuna bank, I took a boat ferry to reach ‘Sangam’ and all this while the root question kept haunting conscience…
“What am I carrying in my pot of mind that I need to get rid of before I can adorn even a drop of spiritual awakening ?… The Amrit”
The crepuscular ray struck as a prelude to a new awakening as I went down into the darkness of the holy river hoping that the drop of holy nectar spilt thousands of years ago will have its sublime effect and wash all my sins away.
Was this dip into the sacred Ganges going to be a conscious submission of guilt or an unconditional surrender to the almighty remained an enigma to me?