Words can barely describe the experience of walking among an estimated 40 million pilgrims at the 2019 Kumbh Mela. As a foreign woman, and on my very first trip to India, this was truly a once in a lifetime experience. 

In all honesty I’m still processing what I experienced during this most holy festival. The sights. The smells. The people. The toilets. Oh so many toilets. The hundreds of selfies that people politely asked for along the way. Each and every one I obliged with a big smile and a good hearted laugh. Not to mention the relaxed mingling of the super rich walking side by side with those people living in extreme poverty. It wasn’t just the bridges across the river that bought people together, it is a deeply ingrained spirituality that brings people to the Kumbh.

A brief glimpse into the 2019 Kumbh Mela in Prayagraji, Uttar Pradesh.

Rather then throw random words to describe what I experienced I’ve gathered up a few photos to show you a very brief glimpse of what I experienced. There will be more indepth posts coming up shortly, but I need some time to sleep and process it all. The below photos are taken by myself, on my Samsung Galaxy S9+, unless otherwise credited. I do need to give a heart felt thank you to Lonely Planet Magazine India, Uttar Pradesh Tourism and Moe’s Art for arranging for me to come along on this wild ride that was #chalokumbh2019

The following photos may not be safe for work. The Naga Sadhus are naked in all their glory and there are images of penises coming up. If you don’t want to see a religious penis or two then I suggest you stop scrolling. I have not edited these photos to hide the natural state of these men, as this is literally what you would have seen had you attended the Kumbh.

Pilgrims waiting for food Traeling Honeybird
Aati at the Kumb Mela Traveling Honeybird

A very brief over view of what the Kumbh Mela actually is.

I’m sure that for many of you, like myself, you probably have little to no idea what the Kumbh actually is and why people travel for days on end to partake in it. It isn’t a big festival of frivolity, though it is a rather happy affair. The Kumbh Mela is a mass pilgrimage of Hindu people to bathe in the river. The mela itself is a huge affair, with many ashrams setting up a base for pilgrims. There are spiritual sessions, yoga sessions and the usual things you would expect at an event that attracts millions of people.

The Kumb in 2019 runs from January 15 – March 04, and is located in Prayagraj India. At any given place, the Kumbh happens once every 12 years. Just to confuse you a little bit – the Kumbh happens every 4 years but rotates between Prayagraji, Hardiwar, Nashik district and Ujjain. The exact dates for each kumbh is determined, by following the Vikram Samvat calendar and the principles of Jyotisha, according to a combination of zodiac positions of Jupiter, the Sun and the Moon. 

Sangam nose – Sangam, the confluence of the three rivers of Gana (the Ganges), Yamuna and the mystical river Saraswati. 

Basically the Kumbh Mela is the largest peaceful gathering of people in the world. The current estimates say that anywhere between 40-50 million pilgrims were at the Kumbh on the 04 February for the Mauni Amavasya, the second Shahi Snan of the Kumbh. Note that this was the most auspicious day. For more information visit the official Kumbh website.

Naga Sadhu Traveling Honeybird
Naga Sadhu blessing Traveling honeybird
Naga sadhus
Below photos are credited to – Ajay Sood, Travelure.
Morning of the holy dip Traveling Honeybird
Mass crowd at the kumb Traveling Honeybird

Experience Kumbh. Experience India.

Jeanette

Jeanette

Founder, Principal Blogger & Coffee Drinker

Coffee Lover | Travel Blogger | Horse Rider | Adventure Racer | Donut Dame. Generally nice lady-enjoys wine, indie movies & random dance parties in my tent.

Just a note – I participated in a press trip for this event. With thanks to Lonely Planet Magazine India for the invitation. As per usual all views are my own and let’s be honest they may upset a few people along the way. 

24 Comments

  1. This looks like such an incredible, transformative experience, and it’s one that I’ve never heard of until now. Thanks so much for sharing, and it’s so great that it was such a human experience where people from all walks of life could come together.

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  2. Very interesting pilgrimage and have deep meaning for many followers. It was good that you’ve witness this celebration. No wonder millions of people came 😀

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  3. Actually, I have been wanting to attend Kumbh Mela for years now. But, what’s been keeping me a little bit away is human stampedes that could happen.
    But, attending Kumbh Mela is once in the lifetime experience and I hope to witness it someday.
    Great post and fascinating photos!

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  4. Wow, the 40 million people could be the biggest religious gathering I’ve heard so far. It’s always great to know a new colorful culture like this one, and to experience this kind of event would be something amazing! Thank you for sharing this with us.

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  5. You are lucky to have seen Kumbh in your first visit, while I have not seen one in my entire life, having been born and lived here for all these years. It does not happen every year, so I will have to wait a few more years! Did you know that Mark Twain once visited Kumbh sometime in the late 19th century?

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    • I had no idea that Mark Twain had visited a Kumbh.

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  6. I really enjoyed this authentic look at their culture! What an experience it must have been. Would loved to have connected with them in person!

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    • It’s not an authentic look. It is the hindu culture.

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  7. I have heard about the Kumbh Bela before but didn’t know that more than 40 million people embark on this journey every year! That’s fascinating! It sure sounds like an amazing experience, I would definitely want to try it someday

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    • That was 40million people in one day! Around 150million people from India and Nepal attend this religious event.

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  8. Wow this looks so fun! You had me at.. spiritual sessions, yoga sessions I would love to join. The photos are wicked raw too…all those people must have smoe crazy energy being there. Great read!

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  9. what a beyond incredible and once in a lifetime experience! And on your first trip to India, that is beyond amazing! I would love to partake in something so cultural diverse like this. thank you for sharing this experience!

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  10. How interesting! I haven’t been to India yet. This reminds me of being in Italy on the day of their Christian celebration of Corpus Domini when there are brightly coloured flowers on the streets everywhere and a procession of people walking along chanting. It’s pretty amazing to see and be part of these kinds of celebrations.

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  11. Incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity. I can’t wait to read your revelations once you’ve processed it all! Something like this is not easy to describe in words.

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  12. I have to say I’m really impressed with the Samsung images! The Kumbh can be overwhelming but I think it was an incredible Experience. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  13. This would be the experience of a lifetime. I cannot imagine being among so many people but this is amazing. I guess I will have to wait another 12 years for the three to align!

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  14. First time in India and you came across this! Bloody hell, I havent been to India yet but if this hit me, I dont what I would be feeling. Great to read about your insight and the atmosphere must have been really incredible. Cant wait to get out to India and hopefully I can enjoy the Kumbh mela.

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  15. Whqt an experience Jean. Goodness I loved those selfies in India. The exotic Westerners always nab attention spans LOL. What a festival!

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    • It was hilarious with so many people wanting a selfie. And sneaking up to take sneaky photos

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  16. Holy sh*t!! Having just returned from Mumbai, I feel my experience was severely underwhelming when compare to the Kumbh! It’s like Burning Man x infinity with the Indian charm. Fantastic photos, and I’m sure living them was on another level. I hope to get to experience this on my next trip over. Just WOW!

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  17. What a once in a lifetime experience! I remember watching a documentary about this event and it’s on my bucket list to see it! I can’t wait to read more of your adventure 🙂

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  18. Really interesting post. What an amazing experience Kumbh must have been. India is on my radar.

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  19. Wow! This sounds like such an experience. I love anything India and this just makes me want to go back again.

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  20. Wow, what an introduction to India you had! I look forward to reading more, while the crowds could have been hard to deal with the fact that everyone was happy would have made it an amazing atmosphere. BTW I did not zoom in but was there an incense burner hanging from an appendage in the photos?

    Reply

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