Kumbha Mela

The following news blurb comes from CNN. See the accompanying photo and video coverage of the Kumbha Mela below the article on this page.

The Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage that is often referred to as the largest religious gathering on the planet. It is celebrated four times every 12 years, with the observance rotating between four different cities in India.

Thousands of spiritual Sadhus and Babas — the holy men of India — are the focal point, along with the millions of pilgrims who travel across India to attend the auspicious gathering and bathe in sacred rivers.

According to astrologers, the ‘Kumbh’ is to take place when the planet Jupiter enters Aquarius and the Sun enters Aries.

This year the city of Haridwar, along the Ganges, is playing host to the historic event over the course of several months.

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12 Responses to Kumbha Mela

  1. The ending to the short video in this article is really great.

  2. It just so happens that this morning I saw a video about Kumba Mela on YouTube, called “Shortcut to Nirvana.” It left me very perplexed by the sheer number of Sadhus of the spiritual market place. I found myself thinking that I would not like to go there. I do not know what to think about my way of thinking, but in the multitude of tilaks I could not find a Vaisnav tilak even though there was a scene in which one could see a gigantic form of Gaura-Nitai so I am sure they were there. I like one very funny Baba in the third part of the movie who was really out there.
    Anyway I do recommend this movie to people and I am curious what others think. Here is the first part and there are 9 in total.

  3. I remember seeing “Shortcut To Nirvana” in a theater in SF a few years ago. It was nice to see it, and I appreciate the significance of the event itself, but I’m easily upset with the way “Hinduism” is presented in the west. Maybe it’s just me but I remember thinking that people walked away with misconceptions about the tradition coupled with only a small degree of appreciation.

    • I think it’s very easy to come away with misconceptions about Hinduism since many of the practices and practitioners are rather exotic to say the least. The exoticism, or downright weirdness, is what people take away, while any underlying philosophy is easily overshadowed by it. Another problem is that very rarely are the film makers learned practitioners themselves. If they have misconceptions then of course what they consider important to put into a film and what to edit out will be very different from one with a deeper understanding.

      • I agree with both of you at the same time “Hinduism” is a collection of variegated and sometimes seemingly opposing creeds, philosophies and practices. I am not sure that there is just one Hinduism rather many Hinduism. Is our version better then that of other sects? For us it is the best for sure. What one can see in the Kumbha Mela is so much variety that is confusing to us who seek to follow teaching of our Vaisnava preceptors. It is true that not all Hindus are Vaisnavs, but can we be Vasinavs without being Hindu?

        • Although several Sanskrit terms are used very loosely in the West, “Shortcut to Nirvana” is a curious title choice for a film about a Hindu festival. From a film marketing perspective, however, I suppose the name is pretty snappy and shrewd.

          The film definitely captures the spectacle aspect of Kumbha Mela, and the looseness of the term “Hindu,” to which Vamsidhari alludes. The filmmakers were definitely drawn to some of the more eccentric personalities at the Mela, which may not provide the most balanced view of the spiritual landscape at the festival (and beyond).

          I also remember seeing the giant Gaura-Nitai forms in one shot. It was a bit strange to see GV as just one element in the (as Vamsi says) “spiritual marketplace” of the festival. It seemed out of place, in a good way.

  4. The attire, dress, dietary habits and all external signs are similar to old Indian hindu style. Philosophically it is already agreed that there are 6 schools of thought, among which one Vedanta has 5-6 subbranches. Not to mention schools like Carvaka that do not accept the Vedas. So yes Hinduism is more a culture rather than a philosophy. For the most part Bengali culture that includes red bangles, covering of head by women, ululating sounds, bengali style of dhoti(different from south indian style) is seen as the essence of GV by most people. And it does give a good identity to people searching for one.

  5. “The filmmakers were definitely drawn to some of the more eccentric personalities at the Mela, which may not provide the most balanced view of the spiritual landscape at the festival (and beyond).”

    Gopala, I think you’re right, and this is perhaps the “exoticism and downright weirdness” that Citta Hari was speaking of. Their lineages and practices may very well have their place in the broader context of “Hinduism”, but something happens between the filmmakers presentation of the people/events and the average viewer’s reception of what they are seeing.

  6. It seems like these types of documentaries are really hit or miss regarding accuracy and they tend to have a sensationalized effect on western viewers.

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