If you want to see how 40 million look like, head to the legendary Kumbh Mela in India. Held every three years on a rotation basis in Allahabad, Nashik, Haridwar and Ujjain, the Kumbh Mela is the biggest gathering in this nation of 1.2 billion people. Commemorating the struggle between the Asuras (demons) and the Devas (gods), the Kumbh is nothing short of a grand spectacle.
Here are a few interesting facts about Kumbh that you might not know;
1. It is the largest gathering of people on earth! At the 2013 Kumbh Mela held in Allahabad, close to 120 million people have been said to visit.
2. The reason why Maha Kumbh is celebrated every twelve years is because according to legends, one day and one night in heaven is one human year. The war between Asuras and Devas went on for twelve days and nights and this is why the Mela is celebrated every twelve years.
3. The Mela is home to bizzare sadhus who follow strange rituals and some of them try very hard to catch your attention. There are sadhus who claim to be sharper than a computer (Computer baba) and then there are Barfaani babas who look like Indian snow whites . There are also priests who make a grand entry on bullet motorcycles and those who claim to have their hand raised up for 150 years.
4.Speaking of strange sadhus, there are priests who descend upon this holy land in their own helicopters and those who claim to be wearing four kilos of gold. Watch out for sadhus who boast of latest weaponry to protect Hinduism from offenders! Renouncing materialism never looked better!
5.The Nagas are perhaps the most reclusive sect of priests who visit the Kumbh. They are stark naked and covered in ash, not affected by heat or cold. The Urdhwavahur sect believe in extreme physical penance and the Parivajakas are the ones who have taken a vow of silence. Kalpvasis sadhus are particular about bathing three times a day and Shirshasins are believed to be standing all the time and meditate on their heads.
6.Stampedes are common occurrences at the Kumbh Mela. At the recent Kumbh Mela of 2013, close to 40 people died because of a stampede and the deadliest one was in 1954 where close to thousand perished.
7.Kumbh Mela is managed on a very large scale because of the sheer numbers of devotees visiting each year. Close to 50,000 policemen are on vigil and 40,000 temporary toilets are built for the public. In addition to that, 14 temporary hospitals are set up.
8.The akharas in Kumbh mela are the main places where people congregate. They are nothing but tents where sadhus perform meditation and rituals and sometimes also give speeches to enthralled audiences. Its fascinating to see how sadhus enrapture the audiences with powerful speeches.
9. It is not limited only to sadhus (male ascetics), sadhvis (female ascetics) also particpate in big number with big fervour.
The Kumbh is Indias biggest stage where religion, faith and superstition confluence to deliver a gripping show full of entertaining stories and fascinating revelations.