Colorful & Incredible India Photography by Subir Basak

Maha Kumbh mela 2019

Kumbh Mela

Kumbh Mela is a major Hindu pilgrimage and festival celebrated in a cycle of approximately 12 years. It is marked by a ritual dip in the waters of four sacred rivers: the Ganges, Yamuna, Sarasvati, and Godavari at Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain respectively.

This festival is believed to be initiated by 8th-century Hindu philosopher and saint Adi Shankara as a part of his efforts to start major Hindu gatherings for philosophical discussions and debates along with Hindu monasteries across the Indian subcontinent. The pilgrims believe that bathing in these rivers is a means to “প্রায়শ্চিত্ত”(atonement, penance) in bengali language for past mistakes and that it cleanses them of their sins. The modern era Kumbh Mela was rebranded and remobilised after the Indian Rebellion of 1857 as a reaction to Orientalism.

The Kumbh Mela is a lifetime experience for any photographer, and the 2019 edition held in Prayagraj (formerly known as Allahabad) was no exception. As a photographer, I had the opportunity to capture the essence of Incredible India through the lens of my camera.

The Kumbh Mela, also known as the “festival of the pot of nectar,” is one of the largest religious gatherings on earth. Millions of people come together to take a dip in the sacred river Ganges, and it is considered a purifying ritual for Hindus. The festival is held every three years, rotating between four different locations in India, with the 2019 edition being held in Prayagraj.

As a photographer, the Kumbh Mela presents a plethora of opportunities for capturing stunning images. The sheer scale of the event is an incredible spectacle, with estimates of over 150 million people in attendance over the course of the festival. Navigating the crowds was a challenge, but it was also an opportunity to capture candid moments of people from all walks of life. The variety of people was fascinating, from holy men covered in ash, to families with small children, to foreign tourists. Each one of them presented unique stories and personalities, ready to be captured by a lens.

One of the highlights of the festival for me was capturing the Naga sadhus, or holy men who renounced their clothes and took a vow of celibacy. These sadhus are known for their distinctive appearance, with long hair and ash-covered bodies. They also play an important role in the festival, leading the first holy dip on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti. They are one of the key elements of the festival and they are a photographer’s dream to capture in their lens. Their enigmatic personalities, their spiritual devotion and the way they carry themselves, all of it makes them an important subject of photography at Kumbh Mela.

I was also struck by the vibrant colors on display at the festival. From the brightly colored clothes of the devotees, to the saffron flags of the various akharas, or sects of sadhus, to the colorful decorations at the various camps and melas. The Kumbh Mela is a feast for the eyes, and I found myself constantly reaching for my camera to capture the next beautiful scene. The colors and the vibrant atmosphere of the festival provide ample opportunities for photographers to showcase the cultural richness of India through their photographs.

The 2019 Kumbh Mela was also an incredible opportunity for me to document the connection between the people and the river Ganges. The river is considered sacred by Hindus and plays a crucial role in the festival. Being able to capture the devotion of the people as they take a dip in the river was a highlight of my experience. The devotion in the eyes of the people, the way they immerse themselves in the river, all of it makes for powerful photography that showcases the cultural and spiritual significance of the river for the people.

The Kumbh Mela is not just about capturing the grandeur of the event, but also about capturing the human stories. The festival provides a platform for people from all walks of life to come together and showcase their devotion and faith. Being able to capture these human stories, the emotions and the devotion in the eyes of people, was a powerful reminder of the importance of photography in capturing the essence of an event.

Furthermore, My journey during the Kumbh Mela was not just a photographic one but also a spiritual and cultural journey. It was an opportunity to learn more about the Hindu religion, the significance of the Kumbh Mela and the cultural richness of India.

3 thoughts on “Maha Kumbh mela 2019”

  1. Im excited to discover this web site. I want to to thank you for your time just for this fantastic post!! I definitely appreciated every part of it and I have you book marked to look at new information in your site.

  2. Since i was a child I have read the National Geographic magazine every month …and I am sure it has helped form the person I am now.
    I am very happy to have Subir as my contact….he regularly brings to my eyes more scenes from India…places and people and customs….a place I have always wanted to visit…. and if I never get there… I have it in my mind’s eye….thanks to these beautiful and thoughtful glimpses of Subir’s country….thank you… !
    I love your work ! Keep shooting and posting…I will keep watching .

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