Kumbh Mela: Festival of Immortality
Be part of the world’s largest spiritual gathering and the greatest show on earth on the banks of the sacred river Ganges in Allahabad, India

February 6 to February 11, 2019 (6 days)

KUMBH MELA: Festival of Immortality
With Shantum Seth

Be part of the world’s largest spiritual gathering on the banks of the sacred river Ganges in Allahabad, India (6 days) February 6 to February 11, 2019

The Kumbh Mela (pitcher 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 to attain immortality and many also come to share their experienced wisdom based on their various practices. It is also the greatest show on earth, and ‘Burning Man’ pales into insignificance in comparison.

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 (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, a remission of all worldy misdeeds and liberation from the cycle of life and death.

Each site's celebration dates return every 12 years, which are calculated in advance according to a special combination of zodiacal positions of the sun, moon, and planets. There is also a similar gathering and celebration after 6 years in Allahabad, which is at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the Saraswati rivers, is considered the most auspicious and this year it is the Ardh Kumbh.

At the last Kumbh mela an estimated120 million people visited the Kumbh Mela in 2013 in Allahabad over a two-month period, including over 30 million on a single day, on 10 February 2013 (the day of Mauni Amavasya). It was in that period which included the 10th of February that we had organized a journey to the Kumbh. It was a wonderful journey led by Shantum and we were able to get to the most ‘auspicious’ bathing areas and meet many well known teachers as also interact with naked sadhus and a cross section of other pilgrims from all across India in a calm, safe and mindful way. In 2019, we shall again be at the Kumbh on 10th February, this time to celebrate, the Spring festival (Basant Panchami) and one of the main bathing dates. Basant Panchami is also a day to celebrate Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge and the creativity and Kama, the God of love.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, especially with regard to Hinduism and Buddhism

Shantum is currently a Senior Advisor to the World Bank and the Government of India (Ministry of Tourism) on Pilgrimage Tourism, has worked with 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 2019 is a main bathing day. 
The dates and cost for our journeys, beginning and ending in Varanasi, during the pleasant Indian winter season are:

Kumbh Mela: be part of the world’s largest spiritual gathering on the banks of the Ganges (6 days) February 6 to February 11, 2019 – US$3850

The retreat will begin in Varanasi on the 6th of February 2019 at 12PM. The next day we will drive to Allahabad.  We will drive back to Varanasi on the 11th of February. You should book your departure flight on the 11th of February 2019 for an evening flight from Varanasi and late  night flight out of India.

Date Day of the week Travel Night's stay
06-Feb-19 Wednesday Arrive in Varanasi Varanasi
07-Feb-19 Thursday Varanasi-Allahabad by road Allahabad
08-Feb-19 Friday Kumbh Mela Allahabad
09-Feb-19 Saturday Kumbh Mela Allahabad
10-Feb-19 Sunday Basant Panchami (Spring Festival) and honouring Saraswati, the Goddess of wisdom.  Shahi Snan. A main bathing date Allahabad
11-Feb-19 Monday Allahabad-Varanasi by road Departure

Dharmacharya Shantum Seth,an ordained dharma teacher in the Zen Buddhist lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh, is the foremost expert on sites associated with the Buddha and has been leading pilgrimages since 1988. He worked with the United Nations on volunteering, peace, and social development for more than 15 years, and is currently a Senior Advisor to the World Bank and on the Advisory board to the Minister of Tourism, on pilgrimage tourism. He has co-authored books such as Walking with the Buddha and been a consultant for films like BBC-Discovery’s Life of the Buddha and BBC-PBS’s The Story of India. He has been promoting Mindfulness in Education and with the police through the non-profit Ahimsa Trust.

The cost for the Kumbh Mela retreat (Feb 6 – 11, 2019) is US $3850 based on double occupancy.  The single room supplement is an additional U.S. $2500

The tour price includes:  airport transfers and escort services in Varanasi and Allahabad, guide services, transportation inside India, monument entrance fees, all meals, bottled water and lodging arrangements for the duration of the pilgrimage. All registration fees are payable in U.S. dollars or the equivalent in GPB, Euro, etc.
(Please note that Shantum Seth will only lead the journey if there is a minimum of 8 registrants. Otherwise it will be led by a person trained by Shantum)

Please note that the cost does not cover:
International airfare to and from Varanasi, visas and other international arrangements, any extra days spent in India beyond the dates of the retreat, excess baggage fees on flights, phone calls and faxes, laundry, and medical and other insurance coverage such as travel insurance. 

As the accomodation is limited on the banks of the Ganges, there is a small chance that it may be difficult to provide single accommodation.  We ask for your understanding if this circumstance should arise.
The camp on the bank of the river Ganges consists of exclusive air-conditioned/heated super luxury tents each with attached toilet, running hot & cold water, a library and a well-equipped dining tent.  You will have an electric point to charge your phone and camera. Meals will be at the campsite.
If you also sign up for the Peepal February 2019 pilgrimage, the night of 11th February will be complimentary


  • The venue is all vegetarian with no alcohol.

  • The entry/exit points close one day prior to/after the main bathing day

  • Since the gathering is big it is highly recommended that you stay with your group.

For cancellations received up to eight weeks before the commencement of the journey only the deposit will be forfeited.  The cancellation fee within eight weeks of the beginning of the journey will be 100% of the total cost.

The range of coverage can vary significantly from policy to policy, and travelers are encouraged to speak with a travel agency to identify a policy that suits their needs.  Things to consider are travel delays, trip cancellation or interruption, medical coverage, and baggage loss or delay.  Before purchasing insurance, you may wish to check with your health insurance carrier to see if your policy includes medical care overseas.  Please note that many insurance carriers require that insurance be purchased at the time a deposit or final payment is made; check with your carrier for details. 

Arrival and departure are to and from Varanasi, India.  Participants are responsible for making their own round-trip flight arrangements from their point of origin to Varanasi, India and back.  For international flights, tickets should be booked as early as possible.  Flights to and from India are frequently full, and this trip takes place at the height of the tourist season.  Most international flights arrive at night or early morning.  You may check with us before you confirm your flight bookings.

We will arrange a complimentary airport transfer on arrival.

The journey will begin at 12.00 noon on February 6, 2019.

We will do a complimentary airport transfer for your departure.
The journey will end in the evening on February 11, 2019 in Varanasi. You should book your departure for a late night flight.

For those wishing an extra day or two to recover from air travel before the journey begins, or who wish to stay longer after the journey ends, we would be happy to provide a list of hotels.  Please make your hotel bookings well in advance as February is peak month.


Single tents are available and there is a single supplement (US$2500)

For single travelers who do NOT want to opt for a single room, we will undertake to room them with someone suitable. If this is not possible, there will be a forced single supplement of 50% of the single room supplement 

You will need a valid passport and visa for India.   Normally the visa is valid for 6 months from date of issue.

India Visa Information
The Indian Embassy in the US has outsourced its visa applications at http://www.in.ckgs.us/index.shtml
The Indian Embassy has a Consulate in New York (Tel: 212 774 0699), Chicago (312 595 0405), Houston (713 626 2148) and San Francisco (415 668 0662). The main embassy is based in Washington DC and their number is (202) 939 7000. Please ensure that the visa covers the travel period for which you are applying. If you need a reference in India, you can give:  Mr. Shantum Seth, 309-B, Sector 15A, Noida 201 301, District Gautam Buddha Nagar, India.  Telephone: +91-120-2511633.

An Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) as e-Tourist Visa (eTV)  is also available for travelers from 116 countries including Australia, New Zealand, United States of America, UK,  Singapore, Germany, Russia, Mexico, Japan, Norway, Finland...   https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html
You can apply for this Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) a minimum of 4 days before your date of travel and a maximum of 30 days before your date of travel. This visa is issued for 30 days only. 

If you are also doing the Full Peepal pilgrimage or Half Peepal Pilgrimage II, please ensure your visa to India is a DOUBLE ENTRY or MULTIPLE ENTRY visa.

Each participant must provide the following details in order to reserve hotels:  Name, gender, date of birth, passport number, date of issue of passport, date of expiry of passport, place of issue of passport, and emergency contact information.  In addition, registrants must provide the visa number, date of issue, date of expiry and place of issue as soon as the visa for travel to India has been issued.
Please send us the visa details after you have obtained them.

As stated above, hotels, food, transportation within India, and guide services are all covered by the tour fees.  It is suggested that travelers carry cash for expenses like gifts or souvenirs, as it is difficult to change money at the sites we visit during the pilgrimage.  Travelers will also need money if they are planning to extend their stay in India before or after the pilgrimage.  Credit cards such as VISA or American Express are accepted in some of the hotels and large shops in Delhi or Varanasi, but not in all the places we visit.  There are ATM machines in most places where one can access cash, but their presence is not universal as it is in the U.S. or other countries.  One U.S. dollar approximates 60 Indian Rupees.  We recommend that you convert some cash at the airport when you arrive in New Delhi.  There is no need to exchange it in the U.S. — it is best to do so in India.  There are a couple of banks with a standard exchange rate at the airport both before and after you clear customs.  Please keep your bank receipts carefully in case you need to change the money into dollars when you return home. 

Travelers often have questions about tipping.  In the last few years, we have developed a system where a kitty is collected at the beginning, and the tips are distributed from it (contributing is optional). This covers all the incidental tipping/donations during the pilgrimage at hotels/restaurants etc. A tip for the guides and drivers is an optional addition to this kitty. Thus far, this has worked well. It usually works out to $10 to $15 per day, but this figure could vary. It may be a good idea to set aside $200 for tips.

If you arrive before the start of the pilgrimage or stay after it concludes, the general rule is as follows:  tipping someone who has carried your luggage is common and we would suggest Rs.50 to Rs.100.   In restaurants, one normally leaves a tip of between 5% to 10% of the entire bill, unless a service charge has already been levied.  It is not necessary to tip taxi drivers; however if you have hired a car for the day and you are happy with the driver, a tip of between Rs.200 to Rs.1000 is fine.

India uses 220 volts, 50 cycles AC. Plugs/sockets are usually an issue (the electrical sockets in India have round holes, not flat one, so please ensure that the stems of your plug has rounded stems). It’s best to travel with a universal plug adaptor.

Given that there can be a high variation between the daytime and evening temperatures (the general range is from 10 degrees to 30 degrees Celsius, (50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit) layering is a practical approach.  It’s important to be comfortable and modestly dressed.  We recommend that you bring one coat or jacket and a light sweater for the evening; perhaps a shawl if you want to meditate in the morning.  For the warmer part of the day, cotton shirts, T-shirts and cotton trousers will work well.  There is no need to bring formal clothing. 

Generally, the weather is dry with a small possibility of light rain or fog in some places.  It is handy to have an umbrella that can double as a sunshade if it gets too sunny or even be used as a walking stick.  Please bring comfortable sneakers or sandals (which you can wear with socks if it gets cold).  We do not go on treks, but one or two of the (optional) walks are long.  We also visit a number of temples where you will need to remove your shoes, so it is helpful to bring a pair of socks (the airline slip-ons are very convenient).  It is always useful to have a hat or cap to protect you from the sun.  We are allowed 15 kilos (33 lbs.) check in baggage and 7kgs (15 lbs) as cabin baggage on Indian airplanes, so we recommend that you travel light.  You can carry extra baggage, at an additional cost. Laundry facilities are available at all the places we stay, and laundry is returned within 24 hours.

We stay in clean, safe places, and the food in the places we stay will be clean, fresh and prepared to suit a delicate digestive system.  You will be provided bottled mineral water for drinking.

If you are coming from Africa or some parts of Latin America, a certificate of yellow fever inoculation is required by the Indian authorities.  If you are coming from Kenya, you have to take the OPV (Oral Polio Vaccine) before you travel.

There is no other medical restriction upon your entry into India.  We recommend a Hepatitis-A inoculation and a Tetanus shot.  If you prefer to be more careful, then please speak to your physician.  We do carry a first-aid kit with us, but many people prefer to bring their own supply of medicines.  We would recommend you get an insect/mosquito repellent and also a stomach medicine for both diarrhea and constipation as one’s stomach has its own way of adjusting to different foods.
If you have any special diet needs or medical needs, please do let us know.

It is quite easy and inexpensive to get a local SIM card for your mobile phone at the Delhi airport. You need one photograph and a copy of your Indian visa and passport. If you have an iPhone, you may need to ‘unlock’ it before you come to India. Mobile telephony in India is inexpensive.

ADDITIONAL TRAVEL SERVICES (e.g. shuttle buses, taxis)
We provide all the transport services during the pilgrimage, including having you met on arrival in New Delhi.  There is no extra charge for meeting people at the airport.  For those who want to make your own arrangements, the Delhi Airport has cabs.  The cab-stand is located just after you exit the airport. Depending on the time you arrive the cab fare will be in the range of Rs.700-1200.  It is easy to get a cab at the hotel for the airport when one leaves for the same price.

Shantum Seth and Seth Consultants Pvt. Ltd. while undertaking tours, transportation, hotel accommodation and other services only act on the clear understanding that they shall not be in any way responsible or liable for any accident, damage, loss, delay or inconvenience caused in connection with travel and other facilities arranged by the company, their employees or agents. All bookings are accepted and executed with utmost care, yet no responsibility is taken for any change or deviation on account of factors beyond their control.

By making a deposit for the tour, participants acknowledge that they have read and understood this document in its entirety, and have consented to all conditions herein, including the Disclaimer and Release of Liability.  For participants under age 18, their parent or legal guardian shall sign on their behalf and the same Disclaimer and Release shall apply.

Other Post-trip Optional Add-on journeys:




6-Day Kumbh Mela

February 6 to February 11, 2019

US$ 3850* (**$2500 single room supplement)

November 1, 2018

14-day In the Footsteps of Buddha Pilgrimage Peepal

February 12 to February 25, 2019

US$ 5950* (**$1550 single room supplement)

November 1, 2018

9-day In the Footsteps of Buddha

Half Peepal I Pilgrimage

February 12 to February 20, 2019

US$ 3950 (**$950 single room supplement)

November 1, 2018

9-day In the Footsteps of Buddha

Half Peepal II Pilgrimage

February 17 to on February 25, 2019

US$ 3950* (**$950 single room supplement)

November 1, 2018

Building Love  - Agra and the Taj Mahal

February 25 to February 26, 2019

US$ 475* (**$140 single room supplement)

November 1, 2018

3-day The Exquisite Caves – Ajanta & Ellora

February 27 to March 1, 2019

US$ 1495* (**$435 single room supplement)

November 1, 2018

(*Peepal: The tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment) 



Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player


© Buddhapath | Email: info@buddhapath.com | Design Sanjam Singh