I had exhausted myself for the last few days. We had walked more than 40 km in all back and forth to the Kumbh and across it to have the great Shahi Snaan on the banks of the Ganges on the auspicious day of the Mauni Amawasya. This was the day and time the actual pure nectar of the heavens fell on these very banks of the Sangam. It is said that whosoever bathes in the holy water at the right day and time will cleanse himself of all sins and negativity in life. He would have purified his soul ready to take on the many challenges of life. The holy waters of the river turn magical at the Kumbh and have been known to heal ailments and bone problems. It is a great time to perform poojas, havans, artis or feeding the poor to get God’s blessings. With more than five crore people arriving for the baths, Prayag was shut down. No traffic from anywhere was allowed. Everyone had to walk towards the Kumbh 2019 along the various bridges. So, I walked all the way to witness the shahi akhadas jostle each other for supremacy moving forward through the maze of the crowd on their trucks, tractors, jeeps and buses. All men wielded swords or spears. Some even had a Naga Baba or two sitting on top of the bonnet of a tractor.
We had walked back to the Kumbh 2019 only to realise that our tent at sector 14 was full up and that we had no place to sleep. Luckily for Tiwari and me, we found a corner next to a man singing ‘Hare Ram Ram Ram’ and playing an old harmonium. The loudspeaker balled away as another saga played the Dhaapli. We even managed to get a warm quilt. I decided to call it a day as next morning we had to be up before dawn to start our trek towards the ghats of Sangam for the great bath of Mauni Amawasya. Only the great get to bathe in these waters at this time and I was going to be one of them. My heart felt warm and I fell asleep with a smile.
The Kumbh woke up to the sound of blaring motors and jeeps getting started as pilgrims marched towards the Sangam through the various roads, by-lanes and alleys of the Kumbh 2019 complex itself. It was a maddening rush of people chanting and moving forward as police barricades had blocked most of the traffic leaving everyone looking for the right way. We moved around in circles from one path to another blocked road as the Naga Akhadas walked taking centre stage blocking all traffic. It was relentless as a sea of saffron descended on the holy banks igniting a spiritual frenzy. Yes, this was our great Vedic culture in all its colours embracing the world and showing off its splendour. There was no air to breathe at times and walking did become hard as the sun took full flight. But, I kept going in the hope to take a bath at the holy banks of the Triveni. Yes, I wanted all my nectar of the heavens. We tried by lanes at times but then got stuck halfway only to return. We went below bridges through thin winding paths. Most of the times, we looked lost and kept asking directions. Somehow, I knew we would get there soon for the baths; I was so sure of it. Then out of the blue, it appeared – the banks with the river upfront. There was a huge sandy basin with people wailing and poojas being performed. Some poor ladies had also started making pooris and kachoris and selling them to the pilgrims. Now the holy Ganges was in sight as I came closer to the river to take the holy dip. I was in the river for 10 minutes and only got out when I was thoroughly satisfied that all my body was wet and that I had purified myself completely.
Then it was off for a sooji and a bit of face painting. I walked the whole day wearing a bright saffron dhoti with my brand t-shirt. Forehead painting has cooled me a lot and my anger seems to have subsided. Kumbh has mellowed me and taken me in its wings. The sheer size is overwhelming. I was amazed as I walked back in the benign after the bridges and walkways on either side were just filled with pilgrims walking back and forth the Kumbh 2019. All declined as if they had been pulled by an unseen force to come and pay homage to the Sangam. The jam-packed railway stations and unlimited buses ferrying passengers from nearby towns and state litter the street squares and most road and bridge traffic remained closed for vehicles. The police found it tough at times to control the crowd as scooters and bikes felt trapped and helpless. There was a rush of crowd waiting to get in and out of Prayag. We had been walking for 6 hours at a stretch, but I felt light after my bath. All I needed was some deep sleep, which I got. I slept for 21 hours at a stretch until late the next day.