A Travelogue to Decipher a ‘Celestial Blinker’
Somdatta Mandal
IN SEARCH OF THE PITCHER OF NECTAR (AMRITA KUMBHER SANDHANEY) by Samaresh Bose (Kalkut) Niyogi Books, Delhi, 2022, 288 pp., ₹ 450.00
March 2023, volume 47, No 3

The Kumbh-mela is one of the major Hindu religious pilgrimages and festivals. It is celebrated in a cycle of approximately twelve years, to commemorate every revolution Brihaspati (Jupiter) completes, at four river-bank pilgrimage sites across India: Prayagraj or Allahabad (at the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati), Haridwar (Ganges), Nashik (Godavari) and Ujjain (Shipra). The mythological story goes that after the churning of the ocean, the gods found the nectar for immortality and while carrying that ambrosia to heaven in pitchers (termed Kumbha in Sanskrit), halted at four different riverbanks where drops of that nectar fell on the earth. Since then, lakhs of pilgrims from all walks of life congregate at these holy sites and the festival is marked by a ritual dip in the waters at auspicious moments wherein the seekers believe that it is a means to atonement for past mistakes, and that it cleanses them of their sins. The most significant belief is that the pilgrimage helps people attain moksha—a means to liberation from the cycle of rebirth. The gathering is also a celebration of community commerce with numerous fairs, educational, religious and spiritual discourses by saints, mass gatherings of monks, devotional singing and entertainment which often even lead to accidents and stampedes.

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