5 February 2013, Maha Kumbh Mela, Allahabad.
Just a day before one of the auspicious bathing days in 6 weeks of ritual bathings,Saddhus of every hue gather in the lament air of the Maha Kumbh Mela, an extraordinary once in 12 -years event held here at The Sangem – a swirling, bubbling confluence of the brownish,swiftly-flowing Ganges and the deep,emerald waters of the Narmada rivers leavened by the mystical Saraswati river whose presence makes itself felt by intermittent bubblings to the surface at a particular point in the confluence of the other two.
The Maha Kumbh Mela
4 February 2013, Maha Kumbh Mela, Allahabad
Wearing nothing of animal origins, this elderly Naga saddhu uses wooden sandals with just a toe hold – incredibly uncomfortable ( I’ve tried!), as he wanders through the avenues of tents which house the 1.5 million saddhus, plus visitors and all the camp followers who make this Kumbh Mela the biggest single event which has ever taken palce on the face of the Earth. Stretching as far as the eye can see in three directions from the banks of the Ganges river.
Mala Bead Envy ?
3 February 2013 ‘Maha Kumbh Mela’, Allahabad
Ordained by cosmic conjunctions and interpreted by ancient mystics, the Kumbh Mela is not just about salvation. This delightful scene captures two ageing saddhus comparing their rock crystal mala beads….their saffron robes and dreadlocks give them away as mendicant holy men, although these not of the ash-covered ‘Naga’ variety.
Naga Saddhus in Training
2 February, 2013 , the Maha Kumbh Mela, Allahabad
Naga saddhus are certainly the most compelling of the estimated 1.5 million holy men who would not miss this most auspicious of events on the Hindu holy calendar. At specific dates determined by the conjunction of Saturn in the House of Aries and the Sun in that of Capricorn, the Kumbh Mela is celebrated by dipping in the Holy Ganges river to purge oneself of sins in preparation for an end to the suffering of birth and rebirth.
Naga Saddhus at the Maha Kumbh Mela
1 February 2013, the Maha Kumbh Mela, Allahabad
Renouncing all claims to a worldly life is prescribed in India’s most ancient treatises as the next stage after a man has travelled through the stages of boyhood, learning, and family life as a working householder. The third stage is called ‘saddhu’ and this word describes all of those who have made that decision – a difficult one to turn back from.