KUMBH MELA: IT IS ALL RITUAL AND POLITICS

By Promod Puri

Ritualistically inspired and politically promoted by the Hindutva regime of India’s Uttar Pradesh province, the world’s largest religious congregation, the Kumbh Mela, began January 15 until March 4, 2019, in the city of Praygraj, formerly Allahabad.

Devotees come to the historic city where Hindu sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and mythical Saraswati confluence.

It is a pilgrimage with the strong belief that all the sins one has committed will be cleaned with a simple dip in the holy waters. And one can re-emerge and start his or her life with a clean slate. Moreover, one gets “mukti’, meaning liberation from the cycle of life and death according to Hindu belief.

This year’s Kumbh Mela besides its ritual and traditional values has political importance also because of the upcoming parliamentary election in India. As millions of pilgrims from all over the country are expected to attend the mela, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party, is spending millions of rupees in arrangements and facilities to cash in on the goodwill it would generate.

As per the ritual of the bath or few dips in the holy waters to cleans one’s sins is concerned, it does not carry any rationale. This ritual can be accepted as part of Hindu customs and traditions of pilgrimage to the revered rivers, especially at their confluence point, called Sangam.

Expecting, that a devotee can wash off all the bad deeds he or she has committed can’t be accepted to realistic and progressive Hindu mind.

17th-century poet, humanist and philosopher Bulleh Shah has aptly condemned these kinds of ritualistic beliefs. He says:

Makkay gayaan, gal mukdee naheen
Pawain sow sow jummay parrh aaeey
Going to Makkah is not the ultimate
Even if hundreds of prayers are offered

Ganga gayaan, gal mukdee naheen
Pawain sow sow gotay khaeeay
Going to River Ganges is not the ultimate
Even if hundreds of cleansing (Baptisms) are done

Gaya gayaan gal mukdee naheen
Pawain sow sow pand parrhaeeay
Going to Gaya is not the ultimate
Even if hundreds of worships are done

Bulleh Shah gal taeeyon mukdee
Jadon May nu dillon gawaeeay
Bulleh Shah the ultimate is
When the “I” is removed from the heart!

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs and Traditions. Websites: progressivehindudialogue.com, promodpuri.com,and promodpuri.blogspot.com)

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Abhay says:

    Come Mr. Puri! Kumbh Mela is since centuries, it’s not that BJP has manufactured it. What is wrong in arranging things properly. Not only Indians , people from every part of the world come to witness largest congregation of the World. If there will be lack of cleanliness, hygiene or safety measure will be there and if any stamped happens than your type of people will again criticize the government.
    Damn if you do, damn if you don’t.
    Isn’t it Mr. Puri!
    Our constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and if you are going to find rationality in religion, no religion of the world would survive. Even Muslims Hajj Yatra will come in to question. Same goes with Christianity.
    So stop being hyper critical.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Promod Puri says:

    Thanks for sharing your very valid point, I agree with them completely. However, my main argument is in the belief that dipping in the holy waters will take care of all the sins one has committed. This is perhaps the major reason people come for the Kumbh Mela. And this where I seek correction in this belief. If this is merely a ritual and a tradition, I can accept it. But if it is blind faith, then I reject it. My rejection is in line with Sufi poet and philosopher Bulleh Shah where he condemns these ritualistic beliefs of Islam as well. Thanks once again for your comments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Abhay says:

      Shankracharya has prescribed this ablution and as your regard your sufi saint and I don’t have any problem with it, so your scathin attack shows intolerance!

      Like

  3. Promod Puri says:

    Very Sorry, if I have hurt your feelings. Yes, I do have intolerance towards this kind of belief where one can wash away his or her sins by bathing in holy waters. And that would be an easy way to escape from one’s bad karma.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Abhay says:

      No sir I am not hurt! I have never been to Kumbh and not planning to go soon. But the diatribe against Hindu culture is very common and they all give common logic, rationality.
      Few years ago when We used to say plastic surgery have traces in India since time immemorial, so called intellectuals ridiculed it. Now this had featured in Columbia University paper that Charak, an Indian Rishi has used this technology when whole world was in darkness!
      So bathing in confluence of three sacred river is considered pious not just because of river only but it is the place where saints from whole India used to gathered and through their wisdom aggrieved people got pacified and solaced. At present we are unable to decipher the importance doesn’t mean that it has no significance. Harappa seal, till date, hasn’t been deciphered, has it lost its significance?

      Like

  4. Promod Puri says:

    1. I do not know how I can relate plastic surgery marvel and other scientific claims or achievements to the bathing belief in the holy rivers to get over the sins committed by someone.
    2. About rationality, it is the very basic tenet of Hinduism as per Sankhya School of Hindu philosophy.
    3. I agree bathing at the Sangam is a pious ritualistic ceremony, but expecting miracles out of it is something which my Hinduism does not allow me to accept.
    4. My understanding of Hinduism along with its related heritage sets it apart from other faiths. For me, Hinduism is a disciplinary as well as a comprehensive experience of spiritual development in a liberal and progressive regime.
    Once again, I appreciate your sentiments about Hindu culture, its customs, and traditions.

    Like

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