The Kumbh Mela (pitcher/pot festival) is the largest religious gatherings of humanity in the world. Millions of devotees gather to bathe in the holy river Ganges on this occasion as also to share their experienced wisdom based on their various practices.
The tradition of a gathering like this is clothed in myth. The story is that the gods and demons, through the churning of the sea, manifested all of creation. At one point the pitcher or pot (kumbh) of elixir emerged and by some trickery the gods got hold of it and the son of Indra (the king of the gods), ran away with the pitcher and he rested in four places. At each of these places a few drops fell, and so it is felt that those who bathe in the holy rivers at the appropriate time will get great benefit.
Each site's celebration dates every 12 years, which is calculated in advance according to a special combination of zodiacal positions of the sun, moon, and Jupiter. Allahabad, which is at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the Saraswati rivers, is considered the most auspicious and this year when Jupiter is in Taurus (Vrishabha Rashi) and the sun is in Capricorn (Makar Rashi) the Kumbha Mela is celebrated at Allahabad.
However, we know that this tradition of the gathering of different spiritual practitioners has been going on since at least the 7th century CE, when the Chinese monk, Xuan Zang, attended the Kumbh Mela. At that time, the first two weeks were devoted to the meeting of different schools of Buddhism. Now it is primarily a Hindu festival, where initiations of the Naga (naked) sadhus take place, amongst much else.
We have an opportunity to be in the company of Shantum Seth, an experienced and renowned guide on the Buddha's path who has been leading pilgrimages since 1988, when he made his first visit to the Kumbh mela. Shantum has since attended a number of Kumbh melas and will be leading a group for a week as a retreat. Besides creating a space for meditative practice and reflection, we will get a chance to visit and converse with many of the Hindu 'gurus' and people of a variety of spiritual practices. Shantum, a Buddhist scholar and practitioner ordained as a Dharma teacher in the Zen tradition of the Vietnamese Master Thich Nhat Hanh, will provide an inter-faith perspective.
Shantum has been an advisor to the United Nations Development Programme on a number of social development and environmental programmes in India. He will share the underlying structures and subtleties of Indian society so that the travellers get a real sense of our living and ancient cultures. This journey is not only intellectually stimulating, exposing the mind to challenging ideas and diverse lifestyles, but will also be spiritually transformative.
10th February 2013 is the main bathing day.
Kumbh Mela: be part of the world’s largest spiritual gathering on the banks of the Ganges (7 days) February 6 to February 12, 2013
Agra Option for the Kumbh Mela 2013: a pre-trip extension to visit the beautiful Taj Mahal in Agra (1 day) February 5 to February 6, 2013
Other Pre-trip and Post-trip Optional Add-on journeys:
Journey to the East – Touching the Earth: Explore the rich tradition of Bengal with Chandana Dey (7 days) January 31 to February 6, 2013
Peepal* Pilgrimage 2013:In the Footsteps of the Buddha (16 days) February 12 to February 27, 2013
Half Peepal* Pilgrimage I 2013:In the Footsteps of the Buddha (9 days) February 12 to February 20, 2013
Half Peepal* Pilgrimage II 2013:In the Footsteps of the Buddha (9 days) February 19 to February 27, 2013
Agra Option for Peepal* Pilgrimage 2013: an extension to visit the beautiful Taj Mahal in Agra (1 day) February 27 to February 28, 2013
Exquisite Caves 2013:Travel to the spectacular caves of Ajanta and Ellora with Amod Basole (3 days) February 28, 2013 to March 2, 2013
(*Peepal: The tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment)