Why do millions of people, from entire Indian villages to urbane middle managers to foreign tourists, brave the crowds at the Kumbh Mela? During this year’s 55-day pilgrimage, to Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, an estimated 100 million Hindus and others are expected to take a holy dip in the Ganges River to wash away their sins. India Ink interviewed some of them.
Narmada Devi, 45, a housewife from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, was one among them. This is what she had to say.
Why did you come to the Kumbh Mela this year? Is it your first time?
This is my fifth time. I came with family. We had a tough year last year. We wonder if it is because of the sins we have committed. We came here to wash them away.
How have you found it so far?
I love the excitement here. I am also fortunate that I am here on Mauni Amavasya, one of the main royal bathing days. They say that if we manage to take a dip today, we would be internally cleansed.
Describe your journey to the Kumbh. Did you travel alone? How long did it take?
We traveled in a horrible bus from Benaras. It took us longer than it should have. I don’t know how much time we spent on that bus, but it was an awful journey. I threw up the whole time.
Do you consider yourself a religious person?
We are Hindus. We follow Hinduism and worship Hindu gods. We have a pandit, or priest, in our town who we believe in, and we do whatever he asks us to – with respect to our profession, our future, etc. Apart from that, I don’t know what you mean by being religious.
Who do you think is going to win the 2014 election?
We don’t care if it is the Bahujan Samaj Party or the Samajwadi Party. We just want good governance. I can’t tell you how much we have suffered because of bad administration. Higher crime rates, not enough good education for my sons and my husband’s shop was also looted. No authorities came to our rescue.