Picture this– 70 MILLION people, in one place, at one time, with one purpose. The Kumbh Mela festival in Allahabad, India is billed as the largest gathering of humanity on earth, EVER! And, they are already starting to arrive.
The month long Kumbh Mela festival takes place every 12 years. In the center of it all will be my mother, Robbie Hamper, capturing incredible photographs and stories of this deeply religious festival.
The last gathering could be seen from space. My friend, photojournalist and photography mentor Karl Grobl will make his second trek to the Kumbh Mela in his lifetime and lead several brave photographers (including mom) to capture the best images of something most will never see in their lifetime. I have been on several trips with Karl and Jim Cline Photo Tours and I know the images they will capture will be spectacular.
The Kumbh Mela is a Hindu festival that alternates through four locations every three years: Haridwar, Nashik, Ujjain and Allahabad. Every 12th year, a full Kumbh Mela takes place. For the last 1,300 years those who make the journey commemorate their religious devotion by bathing in the Ganges river.
Hindu mythology says that drops of nectar fell from the Kumbh (meaning pitcher) and were carried by gods to the river in these four sacred locations. The bathing ritual is purification from sin. The bathing day begins before dawn and goes beyond sunset with many ceremonious gestures as holy men lead a procession to the river.
My reporter mind diverts to a million ‘logistical’ questions about personal space and restrooms and food and cleanliness and how tent camps work where mom will stay in a 14′ x 14′ tent when she is not sandwiched between millions of warm bodies…and let’s not ignore what the human scent of 70 million people bathing in the 5th dirtiest water in the world must smell like. Yikes!
I will save those questions for mom’s return and in the meantime turn my fascination to to the opportunity to learn about this incredible experience through her eyes.
This kind of journey is not for the faint at heart so I salute my adventurous mom for making the trek. I cannot wait to share her stories and photographs through upcoming blogs when I am able to connect with contact her. Stay tuned for the trip of a lifetime!!
For a better idea of what happens at Kumbh Mela–check out this beautifully produced video: