It’s the largest city in the world, 80 million people – at least temporarily for two months. It’s the equivalent of 10 New York Cities, and it happens every third year in India; this year January 10 until March 10. The location rotates, so long as it’s situated alongside the “holy” river Ganges. This year it’s Allahabad. Six thousand cleaners will collect 56 tons of garbage EVERY DAY! Think of Woodstock times 200. As many as 1,000 people have died in stampedes at these sights. In spite of the logistical nightmare they keep coming because it’s a religious festival, with no Burning Man.  It’s known as the Kumbh Mela.

Why the Ganges? Because it is believed in Hinduism to be the Mother Goddess of all life and to attend this festival and bathe in the river washes away all one’s sins and cancels millions of reincarnations. It’s the perfect chance to cancel one’s transgressions with dates determined by exacting astrological conditions. Plus, at this time Hindus believe that their gods drop the divine nectar of immortality into the river. One of the biggest challenges isn’t having enough porta-potties. It’s the diseases that swirl about because of all the refuse in the Ganges, in which the pilgrims bow, bathe, urinate, and defecate. Remember, there are 80 million bodies performing this ritual, as many as 500,000 at one time.

 

Don’t forget, this is the religion of Deepak Chopra, Richard Gere (by way of its variant Buddhism), Transcendental Meditation, and even so-called “holy yoga” Christian devotees. (More on that in a coming blog.) I’ve been to Banaras/Varanasi, far north in India where the Ganges is nearer its source.  They don’t need Kumbh Mela.  I stood on the banks of the Ganges and watched the everyday ritual of thousands walking into the water at sunrise to worship the sun god and be absolved of sin by having the waters of this disease-polluted river flow over them. They even drink the water and take it home in pots. And yet Americans welcome the gurus and assorted avatars (god-men) of this religion. They twist their bodies like pretzels in yoga positions designed to worship specific Hindu gods. I suggest that before they relax into their next lotus position, Americans enamored with Hinduism (especially the Christian yoga devotees) should hop a plane to Allahabad and do Hinduism correctly.  They should bow in the Ganges and take a huge gulp of the goddess water. Don’t expect Mr. Chopra to be alongside you, and be sure to pack some antibiotics and lots of Imodium.