Hello, my Sassy Fam! This article is going to be a visual treat for all of you and this is surely going to be a different one, compared to our past travels but as one of the things we decided to do this year, is to step out of our comfort zone and push our boundaries and with Kumbh 2019 we did just that!! Both of us are super stoked & so proud that we walked this journey together along with 38 other exceptionally talented travel content creators from across the globe. Also, Salman and me for the longest time now, had Kumbh on our must do activities list, & boy were we happy about it when this came along. We were a part of the Uttar Pradesh Govt’s Travel Writers Conclave 2019 for Kumbh and this just felt like it was meant to be and it turned out to be a life changing experience for sure. Not to forget, this was such a great start to our New Year, when all our spiritual synergies aligned perfectly. We went there with open minds and hearts and with a yearning to learn about the oldest cultures of our country and to witness personally what truly makes Kumbh the World’s biggest human congregation ever.
We still get so many DMs and emails from so many of you asking for our Kumbh must-do list or a quick Kumbh guide and the history or the importance about the place. So we decided to divide this in two parts, one being the interesting things that you should know of and cannot miss out on if you too are planning a trip to the Kumbh Mela 2019 and the second article will speak about its rich history and what gets so many pilgrims all at one place.
After experiencing first hand the biggest human gathering and being a part of the KUMBH MELA 2019, we decided to jot down some interesting facts that you should know about especially if you too are a first time visitor of the Kumbh :
- Eco-Friendly & Clean Kumbh – First things first, go with an open mind as this will help you learn about the culture and the pilgrims in the most authentic way. When I first announced that we’ll be visiting Kumbh this year, I remember a very dear friend sent me a video which was being circulated on FB about unclean loos. All I told her was, I will only believe when I see it myself and guess what I did just that and I did not see any unclean loos even after I went hunting for one!! A few weeks later, as it turns out the video was made for fake propaganda and it wasn’t even of Kumbh. Hence, it is extremely important to be someone who doesn’t judge travel based on someone else’s opinion. (INCLUDE 8499) I can completely vouch for this fact that the Government this year has worked extra hard to make it the cleanest, greenest, plastic-free and the eco-friendliest Kumbh we have ever seen.
The Times Of India team too had an initiative where they gave away jute bags at the Mela to so many pilgrims to avoid plastic bags usage. For every 4-5 minutes that we walked, there were separate loos stationed for men and women and they were very well maintained too. When we walked on foot to go to the main akhaadas where all the Naga Sadus reside, I did not spot a single plastic bottle or wrapper on the roads, bridges or footpaths. There were huge dustbins set up on the sides of almost every akhaada and on the roads. Kudos to the entire team of UP Government for taking extra care when it came to a CLEAN KUMBH!
- Tent Cities Are Available For Comfortable & Safe Stays – Another most frequently asked question on my Instagram was this – “Is it safe and comfortable to stay amidst the millions of tents?”. Here’s my answer based on my real experience – You can easily select staying options through the different “Tent Cities” that are available in Prayagraj and they are so close to the main Sangam area (main area where pilgrims take a holy dip). We stayed at the famous Indraprastham Tent city and it was one of the most comfortable, safe and luxurious stays ever. They had 24×7 clean running water, heaters, geysers, CCTV cameras all over the property, buffet meals and they were sweet enough to even help us with extra blankets at 2 a.m. in the night when it got a bit chilly for the Mumbaikar in me who cannot handle cold.
Plus, the icing on the cake was the fact that right next to the tents, the Holy River Ganga flows along and if you are someone who would prefer a private dip in the water without anyone around, then this is your best bet. Plus, changing clothes becomes so easy too as you can just run back to your tent within a minute. Their luxury family cottage charges went up to 35k a night, so you can imagine the amenities. The best part is, they have so many different types of tents that suit different traveler’s budget and the entire campus once again was squeaky clean.
- Photo Walks – This is something which I personally would love to do and I strongly suggest this for all photographers or photo enthusiasts too. The Kumbh Mela is well known for being so culturally rich and by taking a guided photo walk tour, you can rest assured that you will capture all the right emotions and the raw essence of the congregation.
These photo walks are organized by some of the leading photographers who also take you through all the do’s and don’ts to look out for while you are at the Kumbh.
- Skits In Kumbh – (INCLUDE CANON’S 5909 & 5910) Once at the main Kumbh, you will also witness so many performances and skits that are organized to take both adults and kids through an interesting journey that highlights the 2000 years old history of the mega festival.
You can be a part of these skits to know the history of this festival and the Hindu religion. Entry to which is absolutely FREE. But as a good gesture, you can donate any amount you like before you leave.
- Travel Writer’s Conclave – Including Salman and me, there were a total of 40 global travel writers, bloggers, and photographers that were invited by the UP Government and the amazing team of Lonely Planet India Magazine to be a part of the Uttar Pradesh Kumbh Travel Writers’ Conclave.
This has to be one of the most enriching travel experiences for the two of us that has truly left us amazed at the rich cultural history of our country and has shown us what goes into planning the biggest human congregation and also what it means to live in the holy city with millions of people from all across the globe. This was a 6-day event for us that kick-started from Varanasi and Lucknow and concluded in Prayagraj.
We were also a part of 2-panel discussions held on the spirit of Kumbh and how Kumbh Mela 2019 happens to be an all-inclusive festival as it gathers men and women from different faiths and races to one destination. Swami Chidanand Saraswati also was a part of the panel discussion and he summed it up by saying – “Through this inclusiveness, the World will understand what India stands for and what is the spirit of India. The Kumbh Mela can showcase the spirit of India and through this Travel Writers’ Conclave you can touch the World.”
- Photos With The Famous Naga Sadhus – Meet the show stoppers and the real stars of Kumbh Mela – Naga Sadhus. Though many get scared by the appearance of Naga Babas, they are the most non-violent humans and they believe in non-possessiveness and are unmoved by lust. They live a life which is so in sync with nature and they are devotees of Lord Shiva. The reason they smear their faces and bodies with ash is to symbolize the seeking of their true self and also to reiterate the fact that our bodies are ephemeral. I would advise you to please stand at a distance while clicking pictures only to respect their privacy and to not disturb them.
You also will have to ask their permission before you get down to clicking. Make sure you carry some change with you to put some money in their donation box after you are done clicking their pictures.
- Largest Makeshift City – Kumbh Mela 2019 is officially the largest makeshift city in the World. The roads and parking lots stretch to over 250 kms and around 22 pontoon bridges have been created just for an easy commute for the pilgrims.
The UP Government had used over 40,000 bright LED lights all over Kumbh Mela for all the devotees that gather here from different countries and 6 lakh+ villages from India. Kumbh Mela has also been included in the “Intangible Cultural Heritage Of Humanity” by UNESCO.
- Holy Dip – The hoy dip is one of the main reasons why devotees from all over the world flock to Kumbh Mela. The Triveni Sangam of the holy waters is the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical river Saraswati.
The bathing ritual is considered the most auspicious activity and Hindus believe that by taking this holy dip in the Triveni Sangam, it will rid them of all their previous sins. They believe this is a sure way to attain Moksha or Nirvana, and the holy dip also stops the cycle of re-birth for them and their ancestors. A traveler tip – If you stay at Indraprastha Tent city, you can avoid the huge crowd as one can take a dip in the Ganga river that flows right next to this tent city which is very private.
- Selfie And Photo Opportunities At Kumbh – For all the selfie lovers out there, worry not as the Kumbh Mela will give you plenty of splendid opportunities. Whether it is the main Kumbh board or the Ganga-Yamuna bridge or the huge gates built in Prayagraj on different themes, you are in for a selfie-full surprise. I loved this particular gate that they built right after we crossed the bridge and started walking towards the Naga Sadhus.
- Helicopter Rides At The Mela – Make sure to take the Helicopter rides at the Mela to get a very nice aerial view of the entire Kumbh Mela. This is perfect for any photographer who would like some landscape photos from the sky.
I hope you guys loved seeing the beauty of Kumbh Mela 2019 through our eyes. Stay tuned for our 2nd article that will be all about Kumbh’s history! Love and Light!!