Study leave Feb end for kids, the Maha Kumbh mela time in the Holy Allahabad city. Main bathing dates and rush over as 25th Feb comes to an end. We simply inquire the Sangam tent colony of UPTDC in Allahabad for a availability and lo! tents are available for 27th and 28th Feb. What more is left to ask for? We plan our trip after booking our tents in U.P. State Tourism in Chanderlok, Janpath. The tents cost Rs 6000/- a day including food but when all the factors fall in place the cost didnt matter much.
27th morning we in our usual schedule leaving home by 4.20 am. Its dark and a bit cold as cool winds swish past. Our wheels drive with ease to reach the Yamuna Expressway and we reach Agra by 6.30 am. Further roads are good as mostly are tolled ones and so there is no drive tiredness. We didnt take a breakfast break as we had packed some sandwiches and coffee to suitably last our drive to the tents. Kids were exicited as to the experience of dipping in the cool icy waters of the Triveni sangam. They were expecting it to be as cold as the Ganga flowing in Rishikesh, doubts come pouring in as to how do people get lost in Kumbh as shown in old movies, if they are lost how do they find them? why is it that Maha kumbh occurs in every 144 years, will it be cold in the tents? and so on. After answering a few I close my eyes to show I'm off to sleep.
Kumbh mela 2013 was from 14 Jan - Makar Sankranti to March 10th (Maha Shivratri). Kumbh mela is held every 3 years at Nasik, Allahabad, Ujjain and Haridwar. So every location gets to host it in every 12 years only. Also Ardha kumbh mela is held every 6 years at Allahabad and Haridwar. Last ArdaKumbh was held in Haridwar. Also after every 12 kumbh melas is the Maha Kumbh mela which happens in every 144 years and that's why 2013 was a Maha Kumbh mela.
By 2.00 am we reached Allahabad. The Sangam tent colony of the UP tourism is right near to the mela ground. Its walking distance form here to the sangam. The city is crowded and police personnel are placed all around the city. Tents, temporary sheds which are decorated and beautifully finished greets you, be it the lost and found cell, northern railways, the Ganga Cleanliness program, Bikanervala etc. After lunch we set out to view the mela ground and the triveni sangam area. We walk a distance of 2 kms, the sun is too hot and bright and we remove our woollens and get back to cottons. The rush is less according to the hotel staff and most tents are empty.
The roads are habitated by people who appear from the local villages in trucks and tractors, stationed at the sides of the roads. We carried a pair of clothes with us to the Triveni Sangam but found no shed or enclosure for women to change. I was too exicited to take a dip that I stepped into the cold waters. Once up the heat dried up my clothes within no time and after kids and Vinod had a dip we walked back to the hotel to change the wet clothes. It was a enthralling experience in the eve, right next to our tent was that of the International media and then the entire mela ground. We could hear chants, mantras, bhajans, satsangs, devotional music and songs all mixed in the atmosphere giving it a divine touch. In between the inpenentrable bollywood songs from the mela was also distinctly heard. The mosquitoes created havoc, luckily we had a tube of odomos which rescued us. The hotel guys sprayed some insecticide, which gave some temporary relief.
The morning dawns and today it appears to be windy. The sun is up by 6.30 am and the wind is swaying the tents. The heat is bearable today as the winds blow to neutralize it. We have breakfast and had a walk along the mela ground. Mostly all the tents were dismantled and much space lay empty. As the main bathing day was over many noble souls had left. We walked to the Pontoon bridge taking snaps. A few akhadas were seen here and there. We walk a bit to cross the bridge to see more and more tents visibly extending on the banks of Ganga. It holds true to the fact that one may get lost here and not be found as its so vast.
We then walk into the Akshyavat mandir in Akbar fort, it is used by the army and only a limited area is open to visitors. Patalpuri Temple, Mankameshwar Temple are within the fort. The Hanuman temple is just nearby.
Around 3.00 we move to the boat jetty to hire a boat, all boats are booked so we take up a small canoe for which the guy charges a hefty sum of Rs 1500/-. We having no other choice had to oblige as he was deaf to our bargains. Rowing along the Yamuna we enjoy the ride rowing up to the Sangam waters. The water is just above the waist here, where a support of a wooden plank is given to step down. We step down the plank for the 2nd dip and today the water appears exceptionally cool. A small enclosure with four poles and a white cloth covering gives me and Bhavana the liberty to change our clothes. A pujari guides you with the puja ceremonies you wish to perform and we fill water in out plastic containers. The canoe rows back through sea gulls which flock in huge numbers to catch a bite of the namkeens the pilgrims feed. It virtually perches itself in your hands to take the pick. We hire a horse cart to reach back in the hotel.
The main problems we faced were the exorbitant rates everywhere. Right from the tents, to a boat ride, an auto ride, rates were spiked up. A few tourists who made it to Kashi gave us a picture o the huge rush in Kashi Vishvanath. Wait in queues for 6-8 hours, and the push and pull at the main temple hall which devoids one of a proper darshan. They shelled out Rs 500/- per person to a shop keper who gave them a darshan without a queue. Well we droppped the plan for some other time to have a peaceful darshan and the next day early morning pack up back to Delhi. This time around 5am the roads are deserted except for some sleepy dogs and early wakers doing rounds. The holy city of Allahabad prepares itself for yet another day for a new group of ardent pilgrims seeking moksha in the waters of triveni sangam.