A long walk on a hot day in India

Kumbh Mela Festival in Haridwar, India, 2010

Aarti (evening ceremony) during Kumbh Mela Festival in Haridwar, India, 2010

Getting lost at the Kumbh Mela Festival in India

“No,” said the khaki-clad policeman. “You don’t have the right pass.” It took me a moment to grasp that I was not going to be able to join my colleagues on the media platform. The spectacle of hundreds of naga sadhus parading into the centre of Haridwar, India was the pinnacle of the Kumbh Mela, the largest spiritual gathering on earth, and I wanted to see it

That morning, I rose before dawn and walked 13 kilometres into Haridwar with a group from the ashram to take a dip in the Ganges River. It was the most auspicious moment to bathe during the festival, and millions of devotees were streaming into the city to take part.

After bathing, I separating from my ashram group to join my journalism colleagues on the platform. When I was turned away, I was stunned. The sun was climbing in the sky, I didn’t know the route back and the city was completely closed and packed with pilgrims.

Buoyed by the intense devotional energy, I somehow found the winding route back to the ashram. Arriving, I felt exhilarated and realized I would never be the same.

That morning, I discovered the truth and power of ritual. It’s not about the achievement. It’s about how a peak experience can change our idea of who we are and what we are capable of. Which is a lot to get out of a long walk on a hot day in north India.

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7 Responses to A long walk on a hot day in India

  1. Arun July 24, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    I hope you will be able to write more about the mela. Whatever I have read about it so far is either a journalistic perspective or an observer’s notes, but never a participant’s memoir. It would be nice to read from someone among the pilgrims.

  2. Michael July 25, 2010 at 1:39 am #

    Oh man. How come he didn’t let you through?

  3. Mariellen July 25, 2010 at 8:31 am #

    Thanks for your comments. It was amazing to be part of something that big. You feel that you are swept along, one very small part of the whole – yet each small part is equally significant. I was frankly afraid to go, but I’m so glad I did.

    Michael, he didn’t let me up because, from a spiritual perspective, he was doing his part to make sure I got the experience, and therefore the lessons, I needed to get.


  4. Krista July 25, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    Will you be walking with Swamiji in Colombis this August? I might go there next May.
    Take care. Do enjoy reading your blog a lot.

  5. Krista July 25, 2010 at 4:58 pm #

    Sorry,… I mean the ashram in Colombia.

  6. lara dunston July 28, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    Hi Mariellen – thank you so much for your entry and for your kinds words too. I’m so glad you entered and hope the other judges like your entry as much as I do! 🙂 Best of luck! Lara

  7. Vishnu April 29, 2015 at 11:11 am #

    Nice read.

    Would love to invite you to my home town #Allahabad in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India. Allahabad is the place where biggest Kumbh Mela happens every 4 years, some 3 times bigger than the Haridwar one. A temporary city is set up for this month long festival.

    Do come, its a nice place with cheerful people… 🙂

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