The Saffron Sea

It is only when you arrive at Prayagraj station and move towards the Kumbh do you slowly begin to slip into the saffron sea. The heartland of Hindu Vedic culture and thought, Kumbh is a religious gathering of saints and mystics like no other on earth. The sandy banks of the Sangam are covered with saffron and blue tents as pilgrims from all over the world come to pay homage to this great festival. It is a religious mela with tents elaborately laid out asking people to come in. Some entice the crowd with bhajans, chants and music. Some recite the great Vedas and lecture the masses on the true meaning of Dharma. The common person is everywhere as you sit to have a meal in the many mass lands that take place here. Everyone from the urchin to the saint is well fed here. There is no shortage of public toilets, clean tents and tap water for bathing and morning activities. Most pilgrims and sadhus prefer to bathe at the Sangam on the many banks of the river Ganga. There are billboards, cut-outs and posters announcing the various schemes and farmer benefit programs. The BJP along with Adityanath and Prime Minister Modi has undertaken the area and it has impacted the region as a whole. There is a huge poster of Modi with the words “Karma hei Uttar hei!” Which means your work is your answer to the world and to your naysayers.

Bhandaras are taking place across Prayag as the youth have come out in strong support of Kumbh 2019. It is a sea of saffron as the dates of the grand baths come near. Soon, the entire city will be coloured in saffron, as the number of pilgrims will shoot up. The real Kumbh begins now. The police and the special tasks force have provided a lot of security with police jeeps and vans keeping a close eye on the Kumbh area. The temple bells will ring louder. Pandits will recite the holy mantra as sounds of old Vedic hymns echo in the air above. Vegetarian is the diet you must keep, as there is no non-veg at Kumbh. Get used to dal, roti, rice and vegetables. The nautankis at night can be lively and the wall art is something to take home. I, for one, was struck by the simplicity of the festival and especially the people who came to it. Yes, with so much media coverage, Kumbh has many VIPs who graced its shores namely Hema Malini, who did a dance performance, Sonam Kapoor and Varun Dhawan were the celebrities who came here to pay homage to the river Ganga.

I had fun getting my face painted at all times with Chandan, turmeric and red teeka. With the Pooja bath done from my side, I feel vitalised and charged to venture into the crowd and be part of this Saffron Sea.

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