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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