A friend came up to me today and asked me if I was going to the Kumbh Mela this year. I laughed and said no.
“Why not?” he asked.
“Because it’s 8,000 miles away.”
Good reason. But ever since I read about a now legendary meeting between Sriyukteswar Giri and Mahavatar Babaji at 1894’s Mela, I have been very interested in this festival. Every twelve years when it is held (because let’s face it, every year would be too much) it regularly becomes the new “largest gathering in human history”, and this year’s festival may top them all. It is expected that this year’s Mela will attract 30-60 million people all on 4,000 acres around Allahabad, India. One of the main purposes is for pilgrims to bathe in the Holy place where the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers meet. That place, and this very auspicious time of year is said to be prime conditions to burn off karma simply by bathing in the Holy rivers.
At the Kumbh Mela, Hindus of all different varieties congregate in a spiritual encounter that surely transcends sect and the many languages and ethnic background that are surely represented there. Shaivites, Vaisnavs, and Shaktas…Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishiyas, and Sudras…swamis and householders, in a Holy cacophony of spiritual presence.
This year is special for another reason. Four schools from Harvard University have traveled to the Mela in order to conduct perhaps one of the largest sociology studies in the history of man. They are their to study how large gatherings come together, how food, sanitation, cell phone service, and general order are carried out in such a crowd.
You can read more about the project here.
Though most Westerners have likely never heard of the Mela, this study could do much for the science of Urban development in the West, and all over the world really. Perhaps, if great strides are made in this area as a result of the study, some will take notice of an incidental mention of the source of the information. Perhaps in this way, the spiritual yearnings of a number of people will be further inspired. Perhaps the gathering will provide a beacon for many to seek out another kind of Oneness.