Maha Kumbh Mela 2013 – A report

 

 When my God brother Krishna Bhadran Das casually asked me “Raganuga Prabhu, would you like to join us for the Kumbh Mela?”- I didn’t take his invitation very seriously. In fact I had never been a part of any of the spiritual tours to various places of pilgrimage earlier organized by Iskcon Balaramdesh. I would always come to see and stay with my parents in Mysore during my vacations except a 5 day trip to Mathura and Vrindavan with my wife, daughter and in-laws almost 6 years back. So I replied almost nonchalantly to Krishna Bhadran Prabhu “sorry prabhu, not for me”. However, Krishna Bhadran Prabhu was insisting and informed me that my name has already been included in the list. I have to inform you all here that my brother Nanda Mukunda Krishna Das always used to complain that I would never ever accede to his request for spiritual tours, as he is very fond of visiting places, and his allegation was also weighing heavily in the back of my mind when I started asking Krishna Bhadran Prabhu about details of the tour. The next day when I asked my brother Nanda Mukunda Prabhu, he almost immediately agreed to be a part of the tour and that’s when I started making arrangements for the trip to Maha Kumbh Mela 2013.

 

My self with my God brothers Udara Kirti Chaitanya Das, Krishna Bhadran Das, Arjuna Keshava Das and Arun Prabhu left Bahrain Airport on 13th night at 10.45 pm to Delhi by a Gulf Air Flight. Before that we visited Iskcon Balaramdesh temple to have darshan of the deities and we were informed by Krishna Bhadran Prabhu that prasadam was already packed up for all of us and all were delighted to hear this as devotees without prasadam will be like fish out of water and there was a huge roar of approval the sooner we heard this. The flight was on time and there was this eerie lull before the storm which was going to unfold. We never had a clue of the drama that was going to unfold once we reached Delhi. Midway through our travel, we had our dinner and relaxed nicely little knowing the tension and stress that was awaiting us after we landed at Delhi.

 

We reached New Delhi international Airport at around 4 AM in the morning on 14th February 2013 and headed for the immigration check and baggage claim and we almost immediately lost track of Arun Prabhu. We searched all over for him without success and we decided to proceed for immigration check and baggage claim. After this we hired a cab and proceeded to Terminal 2, which is a 15 minutes drive from the terminal where we landed. Even after we reached the Domestic terminal, there was no trace of Arun Prabhu and we started frantically calling his parents back in Bahrain as Arun Prabhu’s mobile was switched off. Finally, when we entered the domestic terminal, we had just 30 minutes left for closure of the check-in gates and we were now very anxious as to how to trace Arun Prabhu and after another 15 minutes of anxious waiting, we got a message that Arun Prabhu was on his way to the Domestic terminal where we were waiting for him.                             

 

Krishna Bhadran Prabhu was asked to wait at the entrance of the terminal to usher in Arun Prabhu immediately to the check-in counter and in the meanwhile, we proceeded to the check-in counter. When we presented our tickets to the lady at the counter, she informed to our horror that we can not travel on this ticket because the tickets were booked for the previous day which is 13th February 2013 and we were trying to board the Aircraft on 14th February 2013. We all were crestfallen to hear this and when we inquired about alternatives, we were informed that last 4 seats were available in the flight and we would be required to purchase the tickets afresh. We immediately agreed and proceeded to purchase the tickets and in the meanwhile, the check-in counter was about to close and we really had to dash with our boarding passes to the security check and we found that there was a long line of passengers waiting for their turn. We managed to jump the line and when we arrived at the boarding gate, the lady at the boarding gate was about to close and leave and we just made it in time. In the meanwhile, my brother Nanda Mukunda Krishna Das, who had come to Delhi from Bangalore and was in the domestic terminal before us was frantically calling me and had almost given up hope that we would ever make it on time for boarding and was planning to return to Bangalore. However, we just made it and were the last passengers to board the Aircraft.

 

So we were completely drained when the Airplane left for Lacknow at 6.30 AM and were thanking Lord Sri Krishna for all the help. Just imagine there were only 4 seats left in the flight and we were just 4 passengers who had booked our tickets for the previous day. So it was conclusively proved that the Lord always comes to the help of his devotees although we commit mistakes after mistakes foolishly. We all settled down exhausted and started dosing off and almost immediately we heard the announcement from the Captain that the decent to Lucknow has started and we landed in Lucknow after 20 minutes.

 

Lucknow is a lovely city historically famous for the rule of Nawabs and all the poets and shayars. When we came out of the Airport we encountered a pleasant chilly weather and started looking out for the messenger sent by HG Sarvabhauma Das Prabhuji and soon we found him out and he cordially welcomed us and drove us to Shiva Shanti Sant Asudaram Ashram located on VIP Road in Alambagh. The Shiv Shanthi Ashram is a lovely place located on the main road and belongs to a Sindhi Guru and they follow the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev and also many of the Hindu Acharyas. We were all ushered into a room having 6 beds and were asked to freshen up and come to the temple located in the Ashram. We all had darshan of the deities and also the spiritual head of the Ashram and received blessings and prasadam from him. Later, we checked out of the Ashram and were driven to the Lucknow bus stand and we boarded an Air conditioned bus to Allahabad. The journey from Lucknow to Allahabad is around 6 hours and we had a stopover midway through our journey and we had sumptuous “Aloo Parantha” and “Dal Wada” prasadam brought by our God brother HG Arjun Keshava Das and Arun Prabhu.                  

 

We reached Allahabad by around 2.45 pm and then hired an Auto Rickshaw to go to the Kumbh Mela site. All the roads leading to the Kumbh mela site were blocked by the Police and we had to get down from our Auto Rickshaw almost 3 KM’s away from the mela site and then we hired cycle rickshaw’s to reach sector 5, where Iskcon was located. However, we were asked to get down from the rickshaw’s almost 1 KM away from the Iskcon Ashram and we walked towards the Iskcon centre asking help from various policemen and reached Iskcon tent completely exhausted. We checked into the Swiss cottage allotted to us, which had 2 cots and 4 spare beds. No one should fancy the name “Swiss cottage” as the facilities provide in the cottage were pretty basic and extremely austere. The sooner we checked into the cottage, we met our God Brothers Satchidananda Govinda Das, Tribhanga Gopal Das, Ravi chandran Prabhu and Shashwatha Govinda Das who had come from Bahrain on a different route via Varanasi and had checked in almost 4 hours prior to us. HG Savabhauma Prabhu asked us to go to the Ganges and have a dip and then come back for Prasadam. However, since prasadam distribution was about to commence, we first decided to have our prasadam and then lave for the Ganges.

 

The prasadam distribution tent was a huge one where everyone would sit on the floor on the sand and prasadam would be kept on a brick platform. Although there was a big Queue, Sarvabhauma Prabhu ushered us in and the sooner we sat, we were served with hot delicious Krishna Prasadam and we all felt refreshed after honoring the prasadam and later left for a dip in the Ganges. The Snan Ghat (Bathing place) was almost 2 KM’s away from the Iskcon Ashram and we all walked to the place. Soon we all were inside the Ganges and the cool waters of the Ganges refreshed us and we felt spiritually surcharged seeing the majestic beauty of the Mother Ganga and we all offered prayers to Mother Ganga for having washed away the dirt of our body and also the sins committed in millions of previous lives and the present as well. It was indeed a heart touching scene with millions of people performing the bathing rituals in Mother Ganges and offering prayers. Later, we set out on a tour of Kumbh Mela and visited many Akharas of various Sadhus and also many tents of various other spiritual organizations such as Ramakrishna Ashram, Yogoda Satsang Society, Matha Anandamayi, etc. All the spiritual organizations had their presence in the Maha Kumbh Mela and it was like a trade exhibition, wherein all the manufacturing companies set up their stalls to display their products and to strike business deals. Similarly, here it was as if all the spiritual organizations had come determined to send all their followers back to home back to Godhead.

 

While we were thus wandering in the Kumbh Mela, we accidentally met my cousin brother Satish and his friend Chandru and they also joined us for our further tour. Sathish took us to the Akhada of the Naga Babas and we were all astonished to see the naked Naga Baba’s.We went to one Junna Akhara and were surprised to see a man who had kept his left hand up without ever lowering it and and as a result his left hand had become like a bean pole. We also saw many Naga Baba’s who were completely naked. After thus wandering for almost 3 hours, we became completely exhausted and came back to our cottage by 10.00 pm. We fell asleep the moment we hit the bed as we had not slept the previous night and add to it all the strain of walking for more than 4 hours and to say that we were tired would be a gross understatement.

 

The next day, i.e., 15th February 2013 was the Vasantha Panchami day, which is considered to be one of the most auspicious days of the Kumbh Mela to have the Shahi Snan (Royal Bath) in the Sangam. We got up at 5.30 AM hearing the Samsara Dava prayers blaring out of the Microphones and we all took our showers and reached to the Iskcon make shift temple by 8 AM. All my God brothers had prasadam and I and Nandamukunda Krishna Das refrained from honouring prasadam as we wanted to have the Shahi Snan on an empty stomach. Our Iskcon Rath left at around 9.30 AM and we all followed the procession with ecstatic kirtan and dancing. HG Deena Bhandu Prabhu and HG Sarvabhauma Prabhu were sitting on the Rath and we all followed the procession. After having covered a distance of 1 KM towards Sangam, we were stopped as there was huge rush of various Carts by other Spiritual organizations and it was a majestic procession of Carts very well decorated and having seated their Spiritual head on the top of the Cart, all their disciples were singing kirtan and dancing ecstatically. The whole atmosphere was spiritually surcharged and we were transformed into a new spiritual world. At this time, we decided to breakaway from Iskcon procession and headed towards the Sangam site and after walking for almost 1 hour, we were in front of the Sangam and we soon were inside the cool refreshing waters of the confluence of Ganga, Jamuna and Mythical Saraswathi. It is mentioned in the Shastras that any body who takes this holy bath in this confluence in the most Auspicious Kumbh Mela, will never return to this material world. It was a mesmerizing site to see millions of people having their dip in the Sangam peacefully and offering prayers. It was a sight I can never forget and it proves that our Sanatana Dharma is still alive and kicking and in this age of Kali Yuga, such a spiritual gathering of almost 13 Crore people can take place so peacefully and without any controversy is indeed a testimony to the peace loving and devout nature of the followers of Sanatana Dharma in the Holy Land of Bharath Varsha.

 

After the Holy Bath, we started walking towards the Iskcon centre. In between we broke to have some refreshments and also for some shopping. We purchased some memorabilia and were heading towards our cottage when suddenly my brother Nanda Mukunda Prabhu announced that he had lost his wallet while purchasing shawls and soon he started frantically calling his office and bank to freeze his credit and debit cards.  He also lost his driving license, pan card and around 3000 Rupees and after completing all these formalities, we reached Iskcon centre by 12 noon. We then headed straight for prasadam and had hot Krishna Prasadam. All my God brothers left for a place called “Dasha Ashwamedha Ghat” where Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu preached the “Nectar of Devotion” to Srila Rupa Goswami. However, I opted out of this tour as I was completely exhausted and took rest for 1 hour and 30 minutes. All my God brothers returned from this tour by 3 PM and we started packing off for leaving for Lucknow. We left Kumbh Mela by 4 PM and reached Lacknow by 10.45 PM and headed straight to the Shiva Shanti Ashram. The journey from Allahabad to Lucknow was indeed very joyous as we discussed various mundane and spiritual topics and the best discussion was about when we should retire from our active mundane work and devote our selves completely for the Service of Krishna.

 

When we reached the Ashram, a marriage function was taking place and we could see many well dressed men and women participating in the marriage function and this was in stark contrast to the completely austere and spiritual atmosphere of Kumbh mela and was as if to show us the difference between material and spiritual worlds. We all preferred to have fruits and Sri Sandeep, who is a full time worker of the Ashram arranged for a wonderful fruits prasadam with hot milk and we all were completely satisfied. So we all hit the bed by 12 mid night in the nice rooms provided for us in the Ashram.

 

I got up very early the next morning at 4 AM as some how I Could not sleep well and took my shower and went to the temple at 6.30 AM. I started chanting my rounds peacefully and was able to complete my rounds by 8.30 AM. We then were taken for a tour of the Ashram complex which was housing more than 200 rooms for visitors and many other construction activities were still going on. We were served very delicious break fast prasadam at 9.30 AM which comprised of various types of Paranthas, Sabjees, milk etc. All our God brothers except my self and my brother Nanda Mukunda Prabhu left for Delhi by 12.30 PM and me and Nanda Mukunda Prabhu saw them off and came back to our room and took some rest. At 3 PM, Sri Sandeep came to our room and invited us for Lunch Prasadam. As we had a very heavy breakfast, we were in no mood for lunch prasadam; however, we packed our baggage and came down and had lunch prasadam. After this, we were dropped off to Airport at 4 PM to catch our 6.45 pm flight to Bangalore. In the Airport also we met many Sadhus and reached Bangalore at 9.30 PM. We then hired a cab and reached our house in Mysore by 2 AM. We were indeed impressed by the service attitude of the volunteers at the Shiva Shanthi Ashram who went out of their way to look after all our needs and we can never forget their generosity and service attitude.

 

Kumbha Mela 2013 was indeed a life time experience for us and we all cherish some fond memories of the river Ganges, Iskcon hospitality, the Shahi Snan in the Sangam, the various Sadhus of the mela, the Shiva Shanthi Ashram and last but not the least, the sweet association of my God brothers.

 

Kumbha Mela 2013 Mahotsav ki Jaya!

Ganga Mayya ki Jaya!

Yamuna Mayya ki Jaya!

Triveni Sangam ki Jaya!

Sanatana Dharma ki Jaya!

Srila Prabhupad ki Jaya!

Gurudev Maharaj ki Jaya

Balaramdesh Bhakta vrinda ki Jaya!

 

Aspiring to be a servant of the Vaishnava’s

Raganuga Bhaktiman Dasa

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