Kumbh Mela and Ardh Kumbh Mela are one of the biggest mass festivals of Hindu Faith. Held in 4 locations in India, the most oldest and sacred is considered to be held at Haridwar. While the kumbh mela is held every 12 years, the ardh kumbh mela is held every 6th year in between. The Ardh Kumbh Mela is currently going in Haridwar and I got the opportunity to experience this magnificent gathering of faith last week.
First of all, this was not an intended trip. I did not travel to Haridwar for the Ardh Kumbh; we have second home in the holy city and visit it anyways from to time (read my previous experiences here
). Last week was a long weekend and we thought it would be best to spend some time away from the heat of Delhi in Haridwar with the toddler. Once in Haridwar, the husband suggested to visit Hari Ki Pauri (which is the focal point of all Kumbh/Ardh Kumbh activities) one evening, since Ardh Kumbh is going on. I was on the fence for a whole day; the thing is I do not like crowds (no I am completely disgusted by too many people in one place – one of the reasons I have not been to Goa yet!). Then I thought, since it’s a rare event which happens once in 6 or 12 years, it would be a missed opportunity not to visit it, even if briefly (and whatever good or bad experience I have maybe will be worth it – at least I won’t have regrets of not attending one of the biggest events of Hindu faith).
We visited Har Ki Pauri after the poornima (full moon) day. I was impressed by the preparations the various civil, para-military and support organizations for the ardh kumbh. There were port-a-cabin toilets in and all around the 5 km radius of the main centre’ special parking spaces had been created, there were medical emergency camps, para-military camps, volunteers working diligently along with para-military staff to regulate movement. As we walked into the periphery of the Har Ki Pauri area, I did not feel the crowds were any more than usual, though for the first time I spotted hippie type Foreigners in dreadlocks (usually they can be spotted in Rishikesh).
We went down to the Ghat of Har Ki Pauri, where the ganga aarti (evening prayers to River Ganges) was going to be held and it was clean (which was not the usual case other times). We sat there probably for an hour, took part in the Ganga Aarti (which is always a nice experience) and then walked back to our car
So what I came away with from the experience? Well, I am more of a spiritual person than religious one, so I guess I might not travel especially for a Kumbh Mela. The heat and the crowds got to me in the end of the walk back to our Car Parking and the street food at Har Ki Pauri (which I love usually) had taken a temporary dip in quality due to Ardh Kumbh crowd!! Having said this, Ardh Kumb and Kumbh are an experience in themselves and anyone who wants to experience the power of faith needs to visit a Kumbh Mela.