KUMBH MELA 2019 BEGINS
By LB THAPA FOR ONTOTHEROAD.COM
Yes, KUMBH MELA 2019 has already begun from 15 January and it will be continued until 4 March 2019 at Triveni Sangam in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh.
Makar Sankranti heralds the beginning of the Kumbh Mela festival. For Hindus the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati has been the most religious place for the time immemorial.
Do you know about the name change of KUMBH MELA? If not, then this piece of information is important for you.
From now onwards, ARDHA KUMBH, held in every six year, will be known as KUMBH MELA and KUMBH MELA, held once in 12 years, will be called MAHA KUMBH.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE EXPECTED TO VISIT KUMBH MELA AT PRAYAGRAJ!
The main organizing committee at Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, has expected over 150 million pilgrims of all kinds will witness the Kumbh Mela this year.
WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN FOR THE FIRST TIME AT KUMBH MELA?
The most exciting thing and many would not even believe but this is true that for the first time a transgender ashram known as the KINNAR AKHADA got permission by the government to join the Kumbh Mela.
It has become possible because India has legalized gay sex. However, many hardcore Hindus have not accepted LGBT community in India. As a result, they are still prejudiced in society.
Fearing of any possible attack upon the KINNAR AKHADA, a police team has provided full security to them—they took, under the police protection, holy dip into the confluence of the holy rivers.
HOW KUMBH MELA TRADITION BEGAN
According to a strong, religious belief, once upon a time Lord Vishnu was fighting against demons over a pot containing nectar of immortality.
The battle for possessing the pot took 12 days and during the skirmish, four drops of nectar fell to earth: Prayagraj, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik.
THIS ARTICLE IS NOT ABOUT THIS YEAR’S KUMBH MELA AT ALL. I WANT TO TELL YOU MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF KUMBH MELA—YES, BRIGHT AND DARK SIDE OF KUMBH MELA
THIS IS THE STORY OF KUMBH MELA, WHICH I HAD ATTENDED IN 2001 IN ALLAHABAD. THOUGH OLD EXPERIENCE, IT IS A WORTH READING FOR SURE.
ABOUT NAGA SADHUS
The world of Naga Sadhus is enigmatic and mysterious. Naga Sadhus or Naked Yogis are the staunch followers of Lord Shiva. According to the Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva is one of the most powerful gods in the universe.
Naga yogis believe in Lord Shiva. Naga Yogis discard all material things, including clothes to become a complete Naga Yogi. Living naked is the evidence that they have no attachment with the material world.
The tradition of becoming a Naga Yogi is quite systematic and difficult. The entire process is strictly monitored by the senior Naga gurus (masters). Unless and until Naga guru is convinced, the young yogi cannot be made a Naga Yogi.
The Naga Yogi must renounce worldly pleasures including sensual gratifications. They should willingly give up their family and friends to become Naga Yogis. After passing through several stages of intense penance, meditation and yoga, a Naga Yogi becomes a Naga Sadhu.
Many people at home and abroad are much curious about Naga Sadhus for various reasons. The first thing about the Naga Sadhus is their extreme lifestyle. No matter how cold is the weather but Naga sadhus will put no clothes on their bodies.
During winter when everyone shivers in bone chilling cold, Naga Sadhu would remain calm and composed without clothes on their bodies. Regular meditation and the practice of celibacy help improving immune power of the body to an incredible level. It is therefore almost rare to see Naga Sadhus going hospitals and taking pills like general people.
MY INCLINATION TOWARDS NAGA SADHUS
When I was a young student in Bhopal, India, I used to visit big lake (Bada talab), where lived a Naga Shadu. My college, Hamidia college of Arts, Commerce & Law College, Bhopal, was hardly 8km away from the Naga Shadu’s ashram.
From this college I completed my master’s degree in Economics in 1990. I was one of the frequent visitors at the Naga Sadhu’s ashram. I always liked his spiritual talks. There were other people who would also visit the Naga Sadhu.
In fact, the Naga Sadhu was a scholar. He could speak seven languages fluently. Among the seven languages, he would always prefer English to communicate with the people. One day when I insisted, he said he was a gold medalist in M.Phil from the University of Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh…amazing indeed!
WOMEN WORSHIPING NAGA SADHUS LINGAM
On many occasions, I had seen some women would visit the Naga Sadhu’s ashram and worshipped his lingam (penis). He allowed them to worship his lingam on Sunday and Monday. Other days Naga Sadhu would spend most of his time in meditation.
Most of the women would visit there with their husbands, but a few of them would also visit alone or with their friends. I could see shyness on their faces while worshiping the Naga Sadhu’s lingam.
However, the agony of not having a child was more painful than the embarrassment of worshiping the Naga Sadhu’s sleeping monster. When the women went I asked the Naga Sadhu that why they worshiped his lingam.
Upon this, Naga Sadhu explained: “Worshiping the holy lingam has some meaning. Everything has energy; even non-living things have energy. As far as sex is concerned, it has enormous creative energy. Those people who do not understand its creative energy, they waste this energy for reproduction and sexual pleasure.
But, Naga Sadhus transform this energy to understand Brahma, the omnipotent. Potential energy emanates from the phallus of a siddha (enlightened) Naga Sadhu. When women come closer to such phallus and think of conceiving babies, the energy of the phallus does help them in conceiving.
I seldom eat or drink yet we sadhus can survive months or even years without food and water. Do you think this is possible by science? But yes, this is possible for sadhus one like us”.
THE NAGA SADHU, ALL OF A SUDDEN PASSED AWAY
In 1990 the result of MA (Economics) final year published. I got through the exam. Due to preparation for the exam, I had not seen the Naga Sadhu for three months. One fine morning, I purchased some fruits for the Naga Sadhu and went to meet him.
I got down at Hamidia road and walked for 15 minutes to reach the Naga Sadhu’s ashram. When I reached the Naga sadhu’s ashram, I saw some people standing there. I made a way through the crowd and reached the main door of the ashram. I saw Naga Sadhu’s lifeless body…he was no more. The body of Naga Sadhu was taken to Hamidia Hospital, where doctors declared him dead.
MY QUEST FOR SPIRITUALITY TOOK ME TO PUNE, BELUR MATH AND OSHO ASHRAM
I was always fascinated by the life of Sadhus, Sanyasis and of course Naga Sadhus. After 11 years of the death of the Naga Sadhu, I got yet another opportunity to spend some time with Naga Sadhus at the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad in 2001.
After post graduating from Bhopal University (now Barkatullaha University Bhopal), India, in 1990, I was restless. I spent some time at Belur Math, founded by swami Vivekananda, West Bengal.
I did also live in Pune for eight years then I came to Nepal, my homeland, in 1998. In Nepal I began teaching in colleges and schools and in the meantime continued freelance writing.
It was 2nd November 2000 I had a serious argument with the principal of a school, where I was teaching. As a result, I submitted my resignation and left the school for the good.
AFTER LEAVING MY JOB IN NEPAL, I WAS FREE TO ATTEND KUMBH MELA IN ALLAHABAD
About that time, I came to know about the Kumbh Mela to be held in Allahabad in 2001. On 20th November 2000, I got a bus from Pokhara to Sunauli. From Sunauli I got another bus to Gorakhpur.
From Gorakhpur I boarded on Gorakhpur Pune Express. It took nearly 9 hours to reach the Allahabad railway station. From Allahabad railway station I phoned my college friend Panjer Kaushik. He told me on phone that I should take an auto to civil lines, which was hardly at the distance of 10 minutes.
When I reached there, my friend was waiting for me. We were classmates and passed MA (Economics) together from Hamidia Arts, Commerce & Law College, Bhopal. My friend was working in his uncle’s company as an accountant. His parents were living in Shaket Nagar, Bhopal.
HOLLYWOOD STARS WERE ALSO PRESENT IN THE KUMBH MELA
I had a wonderful time with my friend in Allahabad. We visited several places but my focus was on Kumbh Mela. We together visited to see the preparation of Kumbh Mela. He showed me the place where Shahi Snan (Royal Bathing) would take place on 29 January.
It was expected that about 15 million people would bath. Another interesting thing was that there were some Hollywood stars like Madonna, Sharon Stone, Pierce Brosnan, Demi Moore and Richard Gere were expected to attend Kumbh Mela. In addition, the Dalai Lama was also to take a holy bath in the Ganges. Altogether, I was very excited.
AMAZING MEDIA COVERAGE
Media coverage was at amazing level. All the international media giants were on the field. There were so many vehicles with their antenna and dishes for live telecast about Kumbh Mela.
The Allahabad government had allotted over 30 tents for the visiting journalists. I was surprised to see about 125 crewmembers of a spiritual channel, Aastha, was stationed on the ground. They were reporting 24 hours nonstop about the Kumbh Mela.
On the day of special bathing, I saw some political heavyweights at the Sangam. They were Murli Manohar Joshi (then Human resources minister), Sushma Swaraj (then Information and broadcasting minister), Uma Bharati (then minster for youth and sports) and Digvijay Singh, chief minister of Madhaya Pradesh. There were several other high ranking government bureaucrats.
In the meantime, I had an opportunity to take a plunge at the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna. The place is popularly called Sangam. A Kumbh Mela is organized every 12 years and a Maha Kumbh Mela is held every 144 years.
Legend has it that gods and demons churn the ocean that finally produced elixir. In a skirmish over elixir, four drops of elixir fell on Haridwar, Allahabad, Nasik and Ujjain. One interesting fact about Kumbh Mela is that in 7th century, Hsuan-tsang, a Buddhist monk who travelled all the way from China and attended the Kumbh Meala with emperor Harsha.
THE DARK SIDE OF KUMBH MELA
MEETING WITH A SENIOR POLICE INSPECTOR
While staying in Allahabad, my friend Panjer Kaushik had introduced me with his friend Raghubir Yadav, a sub inspector at Allahabad Civil Lines police station.
While speaking with him at his office, he told me something that gave me a shock. I had never thought something like that can also happen during the Kumbh Mela.
“Every time when Kumbh Mela is organized, don’t think that people go there to wash away their sins by dipping in the holy river. Many family members bring their elderly members to drown in the river, because they want to get rid of them.
“Many elderly people are also left in the crowd. Police arrest some people on charges of killing their elderly members by drowning. However, such cases are very difficult to prove in the court and the culprits make an easy escape.
“Some stranded elderly members wish to join their families, but not all. I know there are many elderly people, who refuse to see their families again. They rather prefer to lead a religious life in temples and ashrams,” explained sub inspector Yadav.
DIN DAYAL VERMA, AN EPITOME OF GOODNESS
Sub inspector Yadav advised me to meet Din Dayal Verma. When I asked him what was special with the man! He said: “Go to Jhunsi and meet Din Dayal Verma.
I am very sure you will like his work. He is running an old age home ‘Bandhu Ashram’. I don’t think it will be difficult for you to find the ashram. Jhunsi is not very far from here. I personally recommend you to meet the man”. I agreed to meet the man without asking any more questions.
I took an auto and asked the auto driver to take me to Jhunsi. The driver told me it was about 11km away from civil lines and he could take me there in 30 minutes. I asked him if he knew Bandhu Ashram.
He nodded his head in assertion. The driver took me to Bandhu Ashram in less than 30 minutes. The Ashram was little away from the meddling crowd of the town. The ashram was small but well managed.
I saw some elderly men and women in the garden. Some of them greeted me with a broad smile in their faces, while others just stared at me in bewilderment.
I asked one of the cleaners about Din Dayal Verma. I freaked out when the man replied that he was Din Dayal Verma. What a pleasant surprise! I gave him sub inspector Yadav’s reference. Mr. Verma received me warmly.
Mr. Verma told me that sub inspector Yadav was one of the long time well-wishers of the ashram. “Sub inspector Yadav had helped me when I was literarily on the street. He gave me support and later helped me to start this ashram.
Had he not helped me, I would have never been able to do what I am doing today. Sub inspector Yadav is a very kind hearted man I have ever met in my life” added Mr. Verma.
“Previously, I was working at a bank in Indore” said Mr. Verma and continued. “After the retirement I was living with my son and daughter. I arranged my son’s marriage and he had three lovely kids.
“I married off my daughter and deposited some cash in her account. My son was very angry when I deposited some money on his sister’s account. His attitude towards me had changed ever since. However, to show my love and trust for my son I registered my house on my son’s name. That was my grave mistake.
“My son’s behavior did completely change once I registered the house on his name. His mean behavior made me hopeless and helpless. I felt alone without my wife, who was dead. It was hardly one month of my wife’s death; my son had left me at a temple in Allahabad and never returned.
“I had rough time in the beginning; later I accepted my fate and decided to do something good for the elderly people, who had been abandoned by their family members”. This was truly a sad story. Despite my best effort, tears welled up in my eyes.
While staying at the Bandhu Ashram, I met Dr. Rishikesh Upadhya, a physician. Dr. Upadhya was regularly visiting the Ashram for the last two years. He would examine the elderly people and give them medicines free.
WHY I TOLD YOU THIS STORY TODAY
You may be thinking why I wrote such an old story today. Yes, there is a reason to write this story today.
Only a day before yesterday a friend of mine from Allahabad informed me by an email that Din Dayal Verma was no more. He passed away at the age of 95.
May great soul rest in peace! I had seen him caring many elderly people of his ashram when his own health was broken. He never cared his health, but he was always worried about the elderly members of his ashram.
He lived for them and he died for them. Although I am not being able to attend the last journey of his life, I want to pay my sincere tribute to him. Din Dayal Verma’s selfless service for the elderly people has become an exemplary work today.
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