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!