The Kumbh Mela is a sacred festival held every three years either in Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik or Allahabad. Pilgrims from all over the world undertake this pilgrimage to purge themselves of their sins by taking a holy bath in the Ganges. Like every other festival in India, it is a riot of colors and textures. No wonder it attracts photographers from all over the world, who come to picture this spectacle. Even the great writer, Mark Twain, was amazed by the sheer force of faith that brings millions of devotees at the designated river bank.
If Mark Twain could not shrug off the magnificence of the Kumbh Mela, who are we to not take to our cameras? It is but inevitable, that a photographer will, at least once, want to capture this great fair through his lens.
However, when surrounded by brilliance, even the best of the human civilization lose their minds and photographers are no different. It is then imperative to have a plan and know which shots to nail and which to leave for the last. Of course, as a photographer, you have to let your imagination run loose but then, it is also important to know what visual feasts the place has to offer. The timing, as all photographers will agree, is of utmost importance.
This makes up half the grand visual feast of the Mela. The ritualistic ‘‘Peshwai’’ processions of the various sects of the Sadhus is a sight that should not be missed. The crystal clear skies provide for the perfect backdrop to showcase the colors and the rich culture of the Indian religious sects.
The Serenity of the Rivers
The Kumbh is held along the banks of the holy river,Ganga. The mighty Ganges can be really serene and peaceful, providing solace and peace of mind to the lakhs of pilgrims and visitors that flock its banks for a dip. The banks of the river is a sight to behold and becomes a beautiful muse to photographers, especially during the golden and the blue hours.
The Holy Bath
The one thing that is in the itinerary of every pilgrim and visitor at Kumbh is taking the holy bath at the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. It is believed that a bath in the holy waters of Sangam can absolve all sins. This event is a huge affair and photographers from all over the world
The Crowd at the Kumbh Mela
Even the bare spectacle of a large crowd gathered at a place makes for a great shot. Think of the thousand shots taken from one of the high rises in Mumbai that capture the crowds moving underneath. But the crowd at the Kumbh Mela is quite different; it is a mix of people from various classes of the Indian society. With fascinating details about the diverse identities of the devotees, this shot makes it a treat for photographers. Like Mark Twain had said, the spectacle of millions from different walks of life can be photographed nowhere better.
The Tent City
This makes for an unforgettable picture, especially when the Kumbh Mela is held at Haridwar, as millions of tents set up to accommodate the Sadhus and the Pilgrims can take one’s breath away, if pictured dexterously under the perfect light against the backdrop of the soaring Himalayas.
The Sadhu at the camp in the morning
The Sadhus going through their early morning chores of offering prayers to the river or the occasional sacrificial pyres or just a shot of them sipping morning tea in each other’s company is worth getting up early, even in the cold winter mornings.
A portrait of a Naga Sadhu Smoking
This has been photographed countless number of times and is almost a cliche, however, when pictured well, this shot has the power to tell great stories to the viewers of the photo. The swirling smoke emanating from the clay ‘chillums’ of the naked, ash covered Sadhus never gets old and stops people dead in their tracks, at every art gallery they are displayed at. Make sure that you, somehow, always manage to keep the Sadhu’s eyes in focus, for they glow bright with stories untold.
The Sadhus decked in Marigold garlands
The shot of the ash-smeared bodies of the Sadhus, decked in flaming marigold garlands is one that has every photographer in the throes of pain, lest they fail to capture it. The stark contrast of the orange and the yellow of the flowers against the grey bodies of the Sadhus are sure to attract everyone’s attention to your photo.
So, go ahead and click those amazing photos which show the cultural depth of India. The colors, the splendor, the various textures that are a treat to the photographers, are also proof of the medley of colors that represent our country and culture.
Utsha Roy is an English Honors student and an aspiring photographer. She hopes to be travelling the world taking pictures and writing stories of the people she meets on the way. She believes that we are all here to tell great stories and it is our duty to make them as colorful and vivid as possible.