While choosing a book to review, the title of this one quickly grabbed my attention. Having been to the Kumbh Mela in Ujjain a few years back, I was curious to know how this picture-book had portrayed the largest of the religious gatherings in India.
With the monks, temples, and the waves of the Ganga river, the cover page has in a way brought in the attractive features of the Kumbh Mela. This marks the start of our journey through the Kumbh. The text begins with a morning in the mela, with people performing the ritual of offering Arghya to the sun, and taking a dip in the river. It is a picturesque bird’s eye view: of the sun’s rays spreading everywhere and of the people gathered on the ghats of the Ganga. And there enter our protagonists, Chandni and Suraj. Both the kids are visiting the mela along with their maternal grandparents. Through them, this book narrates the history of Kumbh, the significance of this religious gathering, arrangements involved and those made by the Government for the Kumbh mela.
When I started reading the book, I had a dilemma whether to call it a picture-story or an informative book. Having read it now, I would call it a non-fiction title, mostly because some essential features of a story cannot be seen here. It is a rich source of information, ranging from churning of the ocean, ‘when-how-what’ of a Kumbh Mela, the cults and monks, the ritual of the royal bath and so on. A few stereotypes and the book seemed to be reinforcing them further. For example, it talks about washing away sins. I feel that that is a religious belief, and if not mentioned, it will not make much difference. A child will have to figure out what is right or wrong on her own. But, currently everything seems to have been wrapped in a thin layer of morals and preaching.