For many Indians, Kumbha Mela is for the Sadhus and Babas. The crowd is horrifying. This is a place where many people get lost. It’s a terrible experience.
All of these are myths.
The reality is – Kumbha Mela is a mesmerising experience. If you avoid 6 Shahi Snan days, the crowd is quite reasonable. This is a live demonstration of the diversity of India. One must visit Kumbha Mela if one wants to have an exotic India experience.
Indian tourists visiting foreign countries are mesmerised by beauty, cleanliness, and infrastructure. But with its diversity, food, natural/manmade beauty, and culture, true mesmerisation happens in India. Kumbha Mela is the place where you get all these.
Many foreign tourists flocking in the Kumbha Mela recognises these facts. They enjoy and cherish their Kumbha experience.
Welcome to Prayagraj Kumbha Mela.
We started our journey from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus – Mumbai Allahabad Duranto Express on 28th January. It was a 19 hours journey. Our fellow passengers – some were from UP and some from Mumbai had their own views about the Kumbha.
(Satna Station – Enroute to Allahabad)
Some were recommending visiting Kumbha while others were skeptical. Though no one had visited the Kumbha Mela ever.
This was my 2nd visit to the Kumbha Mela. The 1st one was in 2001 during the Maha Kumbha. In fact this year it is an Ardh Kumbha though the scale and enthusiasm beat any full-fledged Kumbha Mela.
Our train reached Allahabad at the right time.
We had a booking at the Parmarth Niketan Camp. It is situated in sector 18 near the Arail Ghat. This is on the other side of the Yamuna river.
We were dropped on the opposite side Kumbha entry point by the Rickshaw. We had to walk with our luggage for about 10 minutes. Then we got e-rickshaw inside the Kumbha area. It helped us reach another point. There was no help desk to guide tourists.
Local Police deployed at the Mela was the only source of information. They had limited information about the sectors and area. We were guided to walk down about half a kilometer to the Qila Ghat and get a boat to reach Arail Ghat.
With luggage walking half a kilometer was a challenge. Initial enthusiasm was receding fast. But we had no choice. No e-rickshaw or other help. On the top, we were not sure what will happen once we reach Qila Ghat. Will we reach Arail or somewhere else?
Somehow keeping the spirit high we reached the Ghat. One boatman helped us get a boat and we started our journey to reach across the river. We were not sure we will reach the right place.
Finally, when we got down from the boat. We saw two things that gave us a sigh of relief – Arail Ghat signboard and an arrow indicating Parmarth Niketan.
After 5 minutes of walking, we reached our destination. From the railway station to the destination took us more than 2 hours.
Beginning of WOW!
At Parmarth Niketan Camp we were guided to have lunch first. We walked to the dining area. It was a huge dining room. It was already 3.30 pm and their staff was having lunch. One senior lady welcomed us and helped us with food.
That day it was a special Bhandara. Bhandara means free lunch camps for visitors. There are several Bhandara running during the Kumbha at various camps. The food was very tasty, and the arrangements were nice.
Thereafter we were allotted our room. It was in the Anusthan area. When we entered the area, it was truly a great experience. The way meticulously they had designed and organised the camp was spellbound.
There was a Sant Kutir area near the entrance with a small garden.
Then some VIP rooms.
Then came Anusthan rooms around 100 rooms. Each room for 2 people. Each room was with self-contained bathrooms and very good quality blankets.
In the middle opposite the main gate, there was a big auditorium for programmes.
Medanta hospital, Gurgaon had set up a small hospital for emergency requirements. Even ambulance was available at the camp.
The entire camp set-up was well throughout, clean, and made keeping in mind all the minor requirements of the visitors.
Just opposite the camp across the road towards the river, there was another small set up by the Ashram. Here there was a Havan area, some tents, the Yoga Association, and a Blood screening area.
There was an innovative Toilet Cafe area to spread awareness about cleanliness and clean toilet habits.
You step out of the area and you are on the river bank.
We were back to our original enthusiasm. We settled down and got ready to go out again.
There was a Ganga aarti organised by Parmarth Niketan near the camp and Ghat.
It was getting cold. By evening the temperature dropped from 17 degrees to 13 degrees. We had our dinner at the camp dining hall. It was simple and Satvik Dal Khichdi and Rawa Sheera.
Tired from the journey and shivering from the cold, there was no other option but to go under the thick blanket.
The Exploration Day:
The Mela exploration began on the 2nd day. After having breakfast and bath we set out to wander in the Mela.
The Mela is spread over 20 sectors.
There are 3 main areas:
- North West – the Yamuna in the South and Ganga in the East. Here sector 1,2,3,4,6 ,7 & 8 are situated,
- North East – Ganga on the West and Sangam and the South. Here sector 5, 9 to 17 are situated. This area is mainly allocated for different Akharas.
- South East and West. Yamuna and Sangam in the North. Here sector 18 is in South East opposite of Qila Ghat of Sector 1 and sector 19 and 20 towards the west.
Sangam Point where the river Yamuna meets River Ganga and Saraswati are in the river in between Sector 3 on one side, 17 on the other side and 19 on the 3rd side.
We were in sector 18, near Arail Ghat. Sector 19 and 20 were about a kilometer each away from sector 18.
View from Arail Ghat
We crossed the river by boat. They charge Rs.40 per head. There were many Siberian birds seen on the river water.
We reached Qila Ghat on the other side and strolled in sector 1 and 3. There was a huge rush for Akshayvat Tree inside the Akbar Fort. People were also visiting in big numbers to sleeping Hanuman Temple nearby.
After about 2 hours of exploration, we returned to our camp for lunch. The evening was scheduled for Sanstkruti Gram & Kalagram in sector 19 and Tent city in sector 20.
After lunch and some rest, we again started our next round. But before that had a coffee.
We walked on the river bank and reached the Sangam point. This is the point where you can see the Sangam in the middle. There was a special area for VIPs to get a boat for the Sangam at this point.
Nearby are where the Pravasi Bhartiya Day event was held is developed as a selfie point.
From here the Kalagram exhibition was 2 km away in sector 19. Local police lamented that foreigners walk down but Indians look for vehicles for 2 km distance. We decided to walk. We walked the road which was on the bank of the river and iron plates were fixed for the vehicles to move on.
The atmosphere was getting colder as the evening was giving way to the night. It was quite a long walk. After about an hour we reached Sanskriti Gram.
This is a place where a beautiful exhibition s set up to demonstrate Indian culture, history, and heritage.
Next to this was Kalagram where traditional crafts of various states of the country were on display and sale.
On both sides of the road, we found small tent camps, Govt set up (UP Govt Police, Post Department, High Court, Fire Brigade had their camps).
After visiting both exhibitions, we were tired. It was already 8 o’clock. The tent city in sector 20 was still a kilometer away. Knowing one hour of walking back to our Tent camp, we decided to return.
We had our dinner at Moksha. ‘
We were back to the camp. In the auditorium, a programme called ‘Paigam e Mohabbat’ was underway. Here Hindi and Urdu poets were reciting their poetry.
The day ended with exhaustion and wonderful experience of the day.
The Sangam Dip Day:
The next day we began with breakfast and preparing for a dip in Sangam. Whether one believes any religious significance or no, a dip in Sangam in the Sangam city is a must.
A boat from a nearby river Ghat took us to the Sangam point. There were several boats there at the Sangam Point. One can see the colour difference in the water of both the rivers. Yamuna water is green coloured and Ganga water is brown.
With the help of our boat sailor, we took a dip in the Sangam one by one. The water was chilling cold.
After the dip, we returned to the camp, visited the Toilet cafe setup within the campus.
The day was spent strolling and exploring the Mela. In the afternoon in auditorium Sangam Samvad programme, Governor of Mizoram attended the function along with some other dignitaries.
In the evening just ahead of our camp, Ramdev Baba Yoga Camp preparation was underway. Here 4 day Yoga Kumbh was organised by our Camp organiser starting from 1st Feb.
The Last Day:
Our final day started at 7 am with Baba Ramdevji Yoga Camp on the bank of the river. The atmosphere was charged up. Baba in his usual, style took 2 hours session with full vigor and wit.
This was our first experience to attend Baba Ramdev Yoga Shibir.
After the Shibir and breakfast, we packed up for our next journey.
It was a memorable lifetime experience at the Kumbha Mela. I thought we still needed 2 to 3 days to explore the Mela to the fullest.
If you are planning to visit Kumbha Mela,
- -Be prepared to walk long hours
- -Be prepared for some crowd
- -Be prepared for some discomforts
- -Be prepared for many surprises
- -Be prepared for life experience
- -Be prepared to taste tasty Indians street foods
- -Be prepared in advance and book your tent before your visit
- -Be prepared for the chilling atmosphere
- -Be prepared with your camera to click
- -Be prepared to negotiate with every vendor including Boatwala
- -Be prepared for long queues if you are visiting temples
- -Be prepared for city traffics
- -Be prepared to tell lots of stories to your family and friends on your return.
Download all the information about the Kumbha Mela 2019. ‘
Here is what Kumbha Mela looks like from the train on Ganga bridge.
Kumbha Mela is a place where Indians meet Indians, Indian culture Indian food, Indian Astha, Indian diversity, and many foreigners. (We met people from London, Germany, Argentina and saw many others experiencing the Mela whom we couldn’t meet.)
More than a religious fest, it’s a MEGA Indian festival. Kumbha Mela is India on a platter.
Visit and get mesmerised. Not visiting thinking about the crowd and the fear of mismanagement would be a missed opportunity.