Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Immortal Kumbh Mela # 2 - On the Road to Sangam

(This is the second part of my travelogue of my series over the Purna Kumbh Mela - 2013, 'The Immortal Kumbh Mela'. This post is in continuation of the first post. The posts in this series will be in a continuous form.)

My first day in Prayag (better known as Allahabad) was not at all what I had expected it to be.. There is nothing much to write about it as well apart from the fact that I lost an entire day to a stomach bug so that left me with Sunday, the day of the Shahi Snan (Royal Bath) on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya.

On Sunday I started early.. As I, did not wish to walk 9 kms to the Sangam (the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythological Saraswati).. I decided to take the train to it. That was quite an effort. I enquired from the porters (or coolie's) at the Allahabad Station whether Shiv Ganga Express (a decent train which had just arrived) would stop at Daraganj (the station closest to the Mela ground).. On getting a positive response I went for the platform only to see a huge swarm of people trying to squeeze into the same train as I was. I made for the coach with the least amount of crowd on its door and pushed myself into it. More people came and pushed me further in. The train started moving but came to a halt at the very next station (Rambagh/Allahabad City) and refused to budge.

As I became impatient I heard (on the Rambagh Station platform speakers) that there was another special train going towards Daraganj and that was going to leave soon.. Getting impatient I ran towards that train and ended up standing for another hour at the gate (getting pushed and pulled by more people)..

Daraganj Railway Station. I got down at the other side as their is only one platform as the station.

Ultimately the train started and reached Daraganj soon.. I got down on the side of the tracks as the platform was on the other side and half slide down the artificial slope (the track was at an elevated height from the ground) along with other pilgrims to get to the mela ground.. While sliding down I had to avoid contact with an old lady in front of me to ensure that she did not take a tumble over the slope because of me..

Pilgrims from Rajasthan (observe their turban) stopping on their way for some refreshments

I reached the road leading to the fair and started the long walk towards it. I observed people who had come from all parts of India including Rajasthan, Bihar e.t.c. It was a colourful crowd. After walking some distance the road towards the fair took a right turn where it became extremely narrow.. The large volume of people in such a narrow road made the possibility of a stampede really possible (the Kumbh Mela's are disreputed for two things - people getting lost and stampedes).

The Panchayati Akhara

Observe how the narrow road is teeming with pilgrims who did not even have space to stand properly.. (The shopkeepers standing on the wall to the left were trying to help sort out the bottleneck)

 Another view of the crowd. Observe how long the bottleneck extends. It happened in a matter of minutes.

Keeping safety in mind I decided to stand at a nook in front of the Panchayati Akhara and began to observe what would happen.. Swarms of people simply kept pushing forward and swarms of people from the opposite side kept doing the same thing.. It was as if a game of tug of war was going on..

There was no police and I saw shopkeepers running out yelling 'Ruk jao warna bhagdarh mach jayega !' (Stop now or else there will be a stampede !) and trying to stop people from moving any further.. Better sense prevailed and people stopped until things got sorted..

Spotted in the crowd - A pilgrim carrying a large Trishul made of Brass..

Spotted in the crowd - A Naga Sadhu (Lower left)

I decided to avoid that road altogether and decided to take a detour..



ये भीड़ देखकर भेड़ के रेवड़ की याद आ जाती है। जिन्हे सिर्फ़ अपनी चिंता होती है।

So cool, that is an intense looking crowd!