Gurus at the Kumbh Mela

travel photography

When you enter the massive grounds of the Kumbh Mela you find yourself walking through what’s been described as a vast spiritual supermarket. Back from the rivers, the grounds are laid out on a grid system with metal paved avenues criss-crossing each other.

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Entrance to an akhara

Leading off these roads are the akharas, groups of gurus, yogis and holy men, many of whom have come from solitude in remote ashrams in the Himalayas. It’s their chance to meet new followers or for the spiritually curious to find a new guru. Once you step inside, each guru or yogi has their own tented area, often with a fire burning, and your free to wander, to look or to stop and chat.

Everywhere you go, you see huge posters with gurus enticing you to come and visit them. Here’s a montage of a hundred or so….

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fishing for scrap metal

travel photography

These two young boys were busy dredging for scrap metal – they had a magnet on  a long line and threw it again and again into the water, hoping for a lucky find… They were on a small island just off the riverbank, that was used by the boatmen to moor their boats overnight. We’d been using it to film some landscapes away from the crowds.

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crossing to the sangham

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We were staying in an ashram on the far side of the river – away from the city and the fort. Each day we crossed by river boat, about a dozen people on each boat powered along by a couple of oars. The first picture is from the morning we left the KM and it was the day before the main bathing day: for several days the crowds had been growing larger and larger and on this day it was estimated that there were between 10 and 15 million people present. On the next day, the most auspicious for bathing, the papers told us there were 30 million people present.

This was an epic sight – as far as I could see around the horizon, along the banks of the rivers, were millions upon millions of people, all patiently waiting for their turn to bathe in the waters.

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The site of the Kumbh Mela

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It’s a truly remarkable feat of engineering and civic planning: during the couple of months between the flood waters of the Ganges and Jumna receding and the auspicious month for the festival, the authorities construct a city capable of housing many millions of people. An entire city with roadways, electricity, water, 28 temporary police stations, with 12,500 officers and lost a persons bureau is constructed on the sandy flood plain. This year the authorities say that they built 150km of roads, 550km of pipes and supplied 80 million litres of clean water. It works with beautiful efficiency and is truly epic in scale: these shots were taken from the top of the small south Indian temple to Hanuman that nestles underneath the Moghul fortress.

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