Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Kumbh 2019 @ Prayagraj

Kumbh is a special occasion to witness the heritage of Vedic culture. At the four places of Haridwar, Prayagraj, Ujjain and Nashik, every three years respectively, million converge to bath in holy waters of sacred rivers, and to meet the saints and other holy men and women, to take spiritual guidance. These rivers who have the place equivalent to our mothers, nourishing us with their nector equivalent waters since time immemorial. Gods come to their ghats to play, ascetics meditate there and no better time other than Kumbh to pay our respect to them.
Kumbh is also the occasion, where all those asetics can be met, who are otherwise not easily accessible, they may be living deep into caves of Himalayas etc.
In my view there are two main purpose of Kumbh. One to take bath in holy waters and pay homage to river goddess and two to meet holy ascetics and to attend religious discourses etc.
I have been lucky to visit Haridwar kumbh in 2010 and Ujjain in 2016. 2019 was kumbh at Prayagraj and was planning to attend. Among all Kumbh, the Kumbh at Prayagraj has special place, being at the confluence of most sacred rivers of Ganga, YYamuna and now invisible Saraswati. River Saraswati was there till Mahabharat time, about five thousand years back, now a small well, called "Saraswati Koop" inside the adjacent fort, provides a witness to those times. It is said that still an underground current meets the confluence of ganga and Yamuna here, making it the most sacred Triveni Sangam, hence the place is known as Prayagraj, Prayag means Confluence, Sangam, and so Prayagraj is the most sacred confluence.
I was thinking the right day to visit. I wanted to take my parents as well, but dropped the idea as in their current age, it will be difficult for them to walk. In general, because of heavy rush the motor vehicles are stopped at a distance and so to reach sangam, one has to walk, sometimes many KMsas well also sometimes routres are diverted to take a longer route as part of crowd management.
I discussed this with Parents and they agreed to visit some other time. They had already visited Prayagraj and Haridwar kumbhs earlier.
I am of firm belief that a person should try to complete all pilgrimage and holy places, before the age of 55, when health is in better condition, spritual journey is not for weak and feeble, it required tough body and sound mind!
I was thinking about the appropriate day/date and one fine day got a call from Harsha. He told me that he along with Anil are planning to Visit Kumbh and asked me to join. It was like a god gifted moment, not only to visit Kumbh but also to meet Harsha and Anil after almost two years.
I also suggest that avoid being there with kids. Kids should go there only when they are atleast teenagers so that, if lost in crowd can contact and reach their home. If someone is with small kids or elderly people, make sure to put a slip in their pockets with name, address and telephone numbers so that Police/Volunteers acn help trace to their family members.
Harsha and Anil reach Prayagraj on thurday 7th Feb afternoon, while I joined them on 8th Feb, friday morning.
After taking some rest and refreshing breakfast, we took an e-Rickshaw to reach the nearest possible spot to Sangam.
I had been to Prayagraj earlier as well but never took boat to sangam. Its at the middle of the rivers, where they join. It was going to be very nice experience.
There were many tents on the banks, to stay but in general they were quite costly and In my view hotels in city are better option. Staying close to city has its advantage of easy access to local market, railway/bus stand and airport etc.
But tents provide another kind of experience, seclusion and opportunity to meditate on the banks, a little away from maddening crowd!
Anil and Harsha did some shopping on the way, some soveniars etc.
At Ghat, many boatmen surrounded us, after some negotaition, one boatman agreed to take only three of us to Sangam for bath and ferry us back in Rs 500/-.
Anand Bhawan
Many birds were hovering everywhere as faithful were throwing eatables for them. I feel its not good as otherwise the wild nature of birds and animals gets altered and they become dependent on humans for food.
It was very nice journey through boat to Sangam point, these rivers flowing perhaps since the earth came into existence, they have blessed all our ancestors and will continue to do so for all our coming generations.
The view of Allahabad fort was excellent, It is said to be erected by Akbar in 1583 AD, though I dont believe on this exactly, Perhaps there was already a fort which was repaired and strengthened by him. Prayagraj was named as Allahabad by him.
There was a sacred "Akshay Vat" tree, said to be the witness of creation by Bramha and survivor of "Pralaya". This tree was taken inside the fort when outer wall was constructed by Akbar around mid of 16th centuary. Since then till now, it was away from the eyes of faithful and now in 2019, after almost 450 years or so, under the current government, it was open to public!
Rowing slowly our boatman, took us the middle of confluence. Rush was there but we found a suitable place to disembark and take bath. Depth of water is not much, I feel around four feet or so. This is perhaps due to silt deposit.
Allahabad fort
Anil and Harsha went first to take bath, while I waited for them and tried to capture the moments in my mobile camera.
As they were back after getting refreshed with the cold holy water, it was my turn.
The water was not only cool, but also had a good flow and surprisingly clean and refreshing. With the help of rope, I took multiple dips and asked Anil to capture me in his camera. We also took some holy water to be carried to our homes to be used for any sacred occasion.
Slowly we ferried back to banks.
Our plan now as to visit the sacred Akshay Vat.
A crowded street
There was a long queue, but we were mentally prepared for it and not afraid of the crowd. After about 45 minutes or so, we were able to enter the fort.
The Akshat Vat tree was closed through a glass from the side, from where it was allowed to be seen. Army jawans had cleaned the area.
Blessed ones!
It was a very nice feeling that with great fortune, we were able to witness a symbol of our faith, locked for almost 450 years.
Next stop was Saraswati Koop.
On the way we passed through "patalpuri cave", It is an underground cave from where the roots of Akshay Vat can be witnessed. Now with many idols have been installed. Anil and me just took a round and came out. As per the time one has, this place can be visited or avoided.
  Saraswati koop or well is towards the exit gate. The well is covered with glass and a beautiful whitle idol of Mother Goddess saraswati, the Goddess of learning and wisdom, has been installed. The underground water, which is said to meed with Ganga and Yamuna through an underwater current can be seen from here.
It was almost 2 PM by now. We rushed towards the Famous "Lete Huey Hanuman Ji" or the "Lyeing Hanuman" Temple.

It is quite close to Sangam and a must visit. Hanumanji idol is in lyeing position. It is said that during the war with Ravana, when Lakshmana got hit with posionous arrows of demon prince Indrajit, Hanumanji was carrying Sanjivani herb from Hiamlayas. Bharat was doing penance at the banks of sacred confluelnce at that time. In the night he saw one object flying past him and guessing it to be demon, he shot an arrow on him. Hanumanji fell down there taking the name of Rama. Bharat rushed to the spot and came to know upon the happenings. He immediately asked his army to get ready and to march to Lanka. Hanumanji politely advised not to do so and advised that Vaanar army led by Rama will annihilate the demons.
Harsha had a link with one e-Rickshaw driver, whom we called to go for sight seeing. First we went towards the Mankameshwar Temple and then towards the bank on other side of Ganga, where VIP tents were there. We took our late lunch in form of Maggi poha and Upma.
Now we were on the way to Anand Bhavan
Anand Bhavan is a historic house museum. This mansion was bought by Motilal Nehru in the 1930s to serve as the residence of the Nehru family when the original mansion Swaraj Bhavan (just behind the Anand Bhawan) transformed into the local headquarters of the Indian National Congress.
It was about to close and we rushed towards it.
Lete huey (Lying) Hanuman Temple
We took tickets of both floors. One can witness the private rooms of Nehru family and the meeting rooms of Congress leaders in those days. There is also a room, where Gandhiji spend sometime.
One of the many Kumbh Street
Other side of mansion is a varandah, where Indira was married to Firoze. He was adopted by Gandhiji just before this marriage and so he started using his surname of Gandhi.
Jawahar Planetarium is situated here, next to Anand Bhawan, in the same compound. It is quite small and was closed at that time.
Mankameshwar Temple
 Just behind Anand Bhawan is Swaraj Bhawan. Here one can see, many photographs and painings of Nehru family and also some ralted to freedom struggle.
Anand Bhavan was donated to Indian government in 1970 by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the granddaughter of Motilal Nehru and daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru.
Anand Bhawan
It was getting dark now and we asked, driver to take us tiwards the "Naga Akhaara".
Naga are the among the fierest celibate hard penance ascetics. Generally they are followers of Adi Yogi Siva, though there are "Vaishnav" as well as "Shakta akhara" as well. They follow Vishnu and mother goddess respectively.
Swaraj Bhawan
Akhaara belong to the order of different Gurus, most of them leading towards Aadi Shankaracharya. Most famous among Akhara are the Juna Akahra of Nath Sampradaya. The main guru is Guru Gorakhnath, who is said to be an Incarnation of Shiva himself.
It is said that Gorkha race of Nepal, got their name from him.
These ascetics geberally follow the "Hatha" Yoga and Kumbh is the right time to meet and get blessed. Most of the time they spend away from "civilization" in mountains and caves.
After asking multiple locations, finally we reached near the camps of "Naga ascetics".
The word "naga" denotes the naked ascetics. Generally they dont wear anything excepts sometimes a small piece of cloth at loin. They smear themselves with holy ash and spend their time in meditation and yoga. Being naked symbalises the renunciation of even the cloths.

We walked for quite sometime there, visiting many holy ascetics. meeting and taking blessings. We were very excited to meet them.
It was quite late, as we take the road back to our hotel near Allahabad Railway station. Feeling quite satisfied with the day, we took our late dinner and retired for the night.
Saturday morning after breakfast, we went to local market for a walk. Harsha and Anil, bought some Khadi jackets and also red guava, the specialty of Allahabad.
Afternoon they had flight to Bangalore, and I got train to Lucknow.
The arrangement were quite good. Even at Railway station, I saw that police did not allowed anybody to enter or exit the train, till it came to complete halt.
The entire Kumbh Campus, spread across several kilometers, was manned by almost twenty thousand policemen and CCTVs and drones. Toilets were provided at regular distance.
This Kumbh got famous for its cleanliness, general arrangements and incident free occasion. It is said that total twenty two crore people visited Kumbh in 49 days of its duration. On some special bathing days, almost two to three crore people took bath on same day.
I thank Anil and Harsha for the good time we had. You guys helped me to plan and visit the occasion.
May Krishna bless us all and let the spirit of Kumbh remain alive till all time to come.


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