Life beyond physical. – Simhast Kumbh 201616, May, 2016, by Seema Bhatnagar
For a layman, a physical body is an essence of living, in fact, it is absolutely beyond imagination to experience something which cannot be sensed by five sensory faculties of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. But, there are people in this world who have courage to attempt for experiencing something beyond physical. Visiting Kumbh mela would compel any sensible being to think about how this could be possible?
Kumbh mela or congregation is a largest spiritual gathering in India held in every 12 years at 4 different places, Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik and Prayag(Allahabaad) in rotation. Based on the alignment of planets, when the Sun is in the zodiac sign Aries and Jupiter in the zodiac Leo, Kumbh is held in Ujjain. Considering its relevance to the zodiac ‘Leo’ meaning ‘Simha’ in Sanskrit, the Kumbh at Ujjain is also referred to as ‘Simhasth Kumbh’. It is a month long extravaganza starting from one full moon to next full moon as per Indian lunar calendar. This Simhast Kumbh started on 22 April, 2016 and will culminate on 21 May 2016.
Ujjain city has seen a glorious past. Under the ruler, king Vikramaditya, it has been a place of a famous poet and dramatist, Kalidas. In ancient Indian scriptures and history, Ujjain is also referred as Avantika or Ujjainee. It is a small, quiet and peaceful city in Madhya Pradesh region of India on the bank of river Kshipra. Read more about Ujjain city here: http://www.simhasthujjain.in/ujjain-introduction/
What makes this event special is that all the seers and sages who have been doing their yogic practices to attain liberation from the cycles of life and death come at one place to display the intensity with which they want to break the limitations of physical world.
It is an absolutely amazing and rare sight of how some of them simply devoted themselves to pursue the vow they have taken.
Vow to keep right hand up.
Vow to grow hair.
One of them had been living with his right arm lifted for past several years; it was clearly visible with a distortion set in his right arm. One of them did not sit for many years; one was growing hair for many years. Some of them stay in colder region of Himalayas in extreme temperatures without a piece of cloth on body. They are called naaga baba or naked sages who have dedicated their life to Lord Shiva and staying in the same manner.
Naga baba sitting to offer his blessings.
Naga baba sitting to offer his blessings.
They have raised themselves to a level where the sexuality has no meaning and the energy in the body is the only basis of living. They are attached to different groups or akharas under which they perform their yogic practices. Each akhara has its head who prescribes the required yogic practices to all members.
Sadhus sitting in their tents.
Shahi snaan, is a holy dip on some special dates, calculated based on solar movement, during which naga babas are given special status of entering river for the holy dip, only after that general public can enter the river. Nobody from the general public is allowed in the vicinity. It takes place under the security of army and police. They are given this due respect and honor for carrying the age old heritage of spirituality.
The intensity of their devotion is incredible and for people like us who are living in all comforts it is impossible to even accept it as a reality that how a person can live so meagrely.
There were thousands of people from villages who took a vow to walk 122 km on foot in five days. This is called panchkroshi yaatra. There was a massive crowd including children, adults and elderly walking together to complete the walk. It was absolutely inspiring to see the spirit of fulfilling the personal vow of cleansing self of any bad deeds done knowingly or unknowingly.
Night view of Ghat.
The fundamental concept behind taking a dip in Kumbh is that during a certain time when planets are aligned in particular arrangement the earth’s centrifugal force acts in a certain way on human body and it has a potential to alter body chemistry. The water in human body and outside from the river come in close contact to create a certain churn in body chemistry. This alteration of chemistry does not happen in a single dip, for this to happen and experience one must stay there for a longer period and that is a reason the duration for kumbh is one month. In earlier times, when people used to work in agriculture and not in offices like now, they used to spend full month at Kumbh. In my own extended family, there were elderly people who used to stay at Kumbh for one whole month.
According to a common understanding in a layman’s language, the fundamental objective of taking dip in Kumbh is to wash away personal sins and come out clean and clear. This does not mean that a person will change overnight, it is simply to explore the opportunity which has a potential to change personal thoughts and mindsets. A person who has taken a vow to go beyond physical each such opportunity is nothing lesser than nectar.
In Indian culture, any river is considered as a form of Goddess and not just any water body. This is purely for a reason that it helps in sustaining the life around it. To convey this gratitude every evening a special prayer is conducted during which the devotional songs are offered along with lighting a lamp and flower garlands. Whoever is present there sings the aarti (devotional prayer) as an offering and gratitude. This turns the whole ambiance into a very warm and loving, making everybody to lose himself/herself for a moment. Personally, I find it as a very magical moment and it turns me into tears of blissfulness. I experienced the same emotions when I visited Rishikesh, (a city near the bank of Ganges) in 2013. The same magical moment I experienced here also when thousands of people were singing the praise for mother river Kshipra, and were completely immersed in that moment of gratitude.
Night view at Ram Ghat. Main Ghat for Goddess Kshipra aarti
After a holy dip at Ram Ghat. Forhead is decorated with sandal paste and kumkum paste.
Visiting temple, Mahakaleshwar, after taking a dip in Kshipra River is an admission of personal shortcomings in front of Lord Shiva and to seek his blessings and grace for overcoming these in order to grow and attain liberation from cycles of life and death.
Mahakaleshwar temple is one of the most powerful of 12 dedicated shrines or jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. It has a Shiva Lingam dated back to almost thousand of years. The temple was plundered by Mughal invaders for four times and it has been restored and renovated in recent history, but fortunately the energy and sanctity of the lingam is still vibrant and alive for those who can experience something beyond five senses. It is said that visiting Mahakaleshwar once will ignite a fire or a strong desire in you to strive for liberation from cycles of life and death.
Understanding this whole concept of taking dip and seeking divine blessings looks ridiculous to an atheist but the science behind is so deep that accepting or rejecting it seems meaningless and ridiculous.
When it comes to faith and belief in God, it is all about personal experience. Those who have already experienced continue enjoying their faith while those who are struggling to experience are continuing in hope to experience it one day.
My personal experience
At Mahakaleshwar temple. Forhead is decorated with sandal paste and kumkum paste.
This was the first time in my life I have attended Kumbh. Since last many years I had a desire to see it once but every time fear of crowd, some misfortune or accidents prevented me from taking a leap. Probably, this time my longing was too intense and divine made all the arrangements in smoothest possible way.
The first phase of journey we covered through flights till Indore, a connecting city near Ujjain. It was one and a half hour flight from Delhi and later we hired a taxi from airport at a nominal rate of 1000 INR to reach Ujjain. There, we had a friend who is working with Govt. of India and is one of the heading authorities for Kumbh arrangements. He made all the possible arrangements and enabled us to experience the best of Kumbh. I was literally short of words for my gratitude towards him and for my friend who made this possible for me in life.
I was completely blown away with the all the arrangements there. All ghats were clean and volunteers were standing in water to help and ensure nobody crosses a particular level of water.There were changing rooms for women, which was a big relief. There was absolutely no littering on the ghats or on the streets. Beggars were kept away to avoid any nuisance to general public. Keeping arrangements under control when almost half a million people are visiting every day is definitely a humongous task but State Govt. of Madhya Pradesh has executed and managed it immaculately.
Don’t know if I have washed away all my sins but I definitely offered my gratitude to divine from the very core of my heart for enabling me to experience that beautiful moment of visiting Mahakaleshwar temple and taking a dip without any hassle, tension or fear of losing track in crowd, it is nothing lesser than a great fortune.
I made several dips for my family, friends and people known to me thinking that they might not be in a position to make it now but I pray that all benefit reaches to them and they feel motivated enough to visit here by next time. I wished for their and growth and wellbeing.
Overall, it was a fabulous experience of seeing the strength of vow and personal convictions of attaining the liberation from the cycles of life and death. It once again reinforced the idea that one must keep striving for personal growth to a point where the physical boundaries stop mattering. Hoping, this reinforcement will help me in growing everyday and experiencing life with altogether a new perspective and horizon.