The biggest festival ever

Kumbh Mela is India's most legendary festival. Every 3 years tens of millions of Hindu pilgrims congregate in four rotating locations – Nasik, Ujjain, Haridwar and Allahabad - to celebrate, listen to religious teachings, consult holy men, and bathe. It's believed that during the most auspicious days, when planets are perfectly aligned, holy Ganges river can wash away sins.

I visited Kumbh Mela in Haridwar back in 2010. I'm not spriritual in any way, but watching mind-boggling masses of people and meeting sadhus (holy men) was an unforgettable experience. I wanted to visit Kumbh Mela again, but in a different location: Allahabad.

Once in 12 years the massive gathering of pilgrims and sadhus becomes colossal. Mega-festival is called Maha Kumbh Mela, and it doesn't lack superlatives. It's the longest-running religious festival in the world and the biggest gathering of people in the history of humankind. Officials estimate that in January-February 2013 the festival area in Allahabad was visited by astounding 120 million people.

I spent there for a week with my journalist wife. We interviewed sadhus, photographed riverbank bathing areas, and visited a lost & found office for pilgrims who had got separated from their relatives. Not everything was spiritual, though: there was even a small funfair with wall-of-death riding.

I wrote in English a large feature story that was published in Finnair's Blue Wings magazine in November 2013.

Read the story (PDF opens in new window)