Welcome to our travel blog. You can email us if you wish at 2albatrosses@tpg.com.au
    Click on any photo to see it full-size, then click your browser 'back arrow' to return to the blog.
    See the archive at the bottom to view older posts. Happy Reading. Walter & Lee Tuan

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Kumbh Mela, Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India

Kumbh Mela, Haridwar The Hindu Kumbh Mela is the largest religious gathering in the world, attracting millions of pilgrims.  Devotees from all branches of Hinduism, including wandering Naga sadhus (naked spiritual men) gather for religious observances and to bathe in sacred river waters.  In 2010 the event is held at Haridwar, Uttarakhand, where the waters of the sacred Ganges River first emerge from the Himalayas onto the Indian plain.

As our time in India coincided with the 2010 Kumbh Mela, we decided to adjust our itinerary to be in in Haridwar on one of this year’s auspicious Ganges bathing dates, 30 March.  The railway station and town were packed with people and we struggled through the crowds to find an auto-rickshaw to take us to our hotel.  This was a hot, tiring job – for once the demand-supply equation was very much in favour of the auto-rickshaw wallahs.

We spent most of our time in the vicinity of the Har-Ki-Pairi Ghat on the edge of the Ganges canal that flows fast through the town.  Mesh barriers have been installed to prevent pilgrims being swept away.  There was a short riverside religious service at sunset – the atmosphere was electric with tens of thousands of people caught up in the excitement of the moment.  Small baskets of flowers illuminated with candles were then released onto the Ganges.  Lee Tuan released one, hoping it might reach Calcutta several hundred kilometres downstream.  But a nearby woman emerging from the Ganges shook her hair and the water extinguished the candle and sank the basket, barely a metre from its launching point.  An appropriate metaphor for the lottery of life we thought.  There were only a few ash-smeared Naga sadhus around – their big day is in mid April.  There was nothing tacky or sleazy in their clotheless ambulations; even so it was a novel experience to encounter totally naked men on the road.

On Monday we travelled north of Haridwar to Rishikesh, self-proclaimed yoga capital of the world.  It was here where the Beatles came in the late 60s to spend time with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and to write the music for their White Album.  We ourselves came to Rishikesh seeking not spiritual enlightenment, but roast chicken.  Being a holy city, Haridwar is strictly a no meat, no alcohol place.  We were hankering for some chicken and our guidebook referred to a cafe in Rishikesh that served it.  In the event we never found it, making do instead with a filling eggplant pizza that we ate while overlooking the Ganges sweeping around into view from the steeply-rising hills to the north.

The return transport to Haridwar was at a premium, and seated passengers were required to have others sit on their lap.  We were fortunate to have a seat and made our laps available to a pleasant older Rajasthani man.  When it came time to leave Haridwar, it was a real trial getting back to the main railway station.  The town had been sectioned off and the through roads closed.  We ended up catching a train from Haridwar to Haridwar, ie from a station on one side of town to the other.  It took nearly three hours to cover the five kilometres but we made it to the main station in time to catch our next overnight train, this one west to the land of the Sikhs, Punjab.

P1110103 P1110104 P1110112 P1110115 P1110129 P1110151
P1110172 P1110100 P1110137 P1110159

Posts by country and activities

Posts by date