Mysticism and the Kumbh

This guest travel blog has been written by Tamanna Mehdi. She is passionate about traveling and is always game for different kinds of experiences. She is a wonderful writer and I am sure you will agree with this by the end of the blog.

The term ‘Kumbh Mela’, nostalgically reminds me of all those Hindi movies where children separated in the ‘Kumbh’ only to be reunited years later, and hence I burst in giggles when my parents inquired if I wanted to see the ‘Kumbh’ at Ujjain with them last month. A succor for travel, the travel bug in me couldn’t pass this fantastic opportunity. Notwithstanding 40C+ temperatures, we set out daily to tour the many grand ‘akhadas’ (pandals) where swamis and sadhvis along with their disciples from all across the country and the world have congregated for this month-long religious communion called ‘Simhasth 2016’ on the banks of the Shipra river at Ujjain.

What made the trip more memorable was being in the company of the religious head of our Mahdi Bagh community, His Holiness Sydena and Moulana Amiruddin Malak Saheb who was especially invited by Swami Avdheshanand Giri (head or mandaleshwar of the Juna Akhada and the Chief Head of the Simhasth) to inaugurate the nine-day ‘Ram Katha’ discourse by Murari Bapu. Every akhada where Moulana Amiruddin Malak Saheb visited, He was accorded the utmost respect and was immediately invited for a personal audience with the swami. It was indeed a ‘divine’ example of tolerance and communal harmony. As we, about 100 of us accompanied Him, we were also made equally welcomed and got invited to partake in their ‘bhandara’ (prasad) which comprised of basic but extremely hygienic and tasty vegetarian food.

Delicious Bhandara at the akhadas – daal, subzi, poori, rice and sweet

We were the cynosure of all, when we hired about 25 e-rickshaws one evening and moved in a kind of convoy touring the many akhadas (some big, some small). Many motorists and bystanders curiously kept looking at the lot of us as we passed by babas with fancy titles like ‘Environment baba’, ‘Pilot baba’, the tantriks, the aghoris (they engage in post-mortem rituals), the kinners (transgenders) and the naga babas. There were some babas that have been standing on one leg for many years or some with one arm in the air.

E rickshaw rides

pic 6

We also walked around the many ‘ghats’. ‘Ram Ghat’ on the Shipra River is where the ‘shahi snaan’ takes place on the first day of the Simhasth and is considered the most holy. To divert the devout and the many crowds of curious tourists and onlookers, many such ‘ghats’ are made along the river, so all can take a dip in the river. Temporary bridges are made connecting the banks of this wide river to facilitate quick movement of people. Strategically made fountains in the middle of the river and water spraying from the bridge, created a kind of a mist, keeping the place cool, despite the bright sun and high temperatures during the day. At night, the whole river was brightly lit up with colorful lights adding to the festive atmosphere.

Scene on the 1st day of the 'shahi snaan'
Scene on the 1st day of the ‘shahi snaan’
The Shipra with fountains.
The Shipra with fountains.
Pontoon bridges , connecting one Ghat with another.
Pontoon bridges , connecting one Ghat with another.

In the four days of my trip to Ujjain this time, I can honestly say, that this unique experience is going to last with me for a life time. As a tourist at this grand event, to see the magnanimity of it and the bhakti of people from all walks of life- it is definitely to be seen to be felt. Religious harmony in India indicates there is love and affection between different religions in India and these past few days symbolized the best example of living in harmony in our pluralistic country. The Kumbh Mela is held in Ujjain once every twelve years when Jupiter “enters” Leo, or simha. Hence, the Ujjain mela is known as the Simhasth Kumbh Mela and is being held from 22nd April to 6th May, 2016 this time.

Ujjain city

Apart from this current significance, the city itself has a large population of people from all religious communities living in harmony. The narrow by-lanes of the city are famous for its old architecture with intricately carved doorways and windows. There is also a huge bangles market. A wide array of food, both sumptuous vegetarian and non-vegetarian are widely available. The sight of the big ‘kadahi’ with gulab jamus simmering away is a sight for a connoisseur.


Indore is the closest airport about 55 kms from Ujjain and is connected by flights from major cities. There is also a railway station at Ujjain.

Tamanna S. Mehdi

82 thoughts on “Mysticism and the Kumbh”

  1. Being a former colleague of Tamanna, I know her passion for travel and food. What makes her tours special is that she definitely brings out an article about her trip experience, which is a pleasure to read. This article is a proof of that. What makes this article unique is that the readers could actually visualize the whole experience as they read it. And most importantly it has a message which is so pertinent to the current time. Kudos Tamanna, way to go !

    1. Dr Sonali!
      Thank you ever so much for these valuable comments. It is these words of encouragement that greatly help in my writings- coming from u- such an honour.
      – Tamanna

    2. This article is yet another example of how communities can live in harmony together. But our politicians won’t agree on the same. Tamanna this is very-well expressed.

      Looking forward for more articles like these.

    1. just to add to my previous reply Ravi, we were indeed very fortunate to be accompanied by our Moulana Amiruddin Malak Saheb. Since, we were in his entourage, we also got VIP treatment along with Him.
      If it wasnt for that, I would have felt the same way as you do.

  2. Very effectively penned and beautifully described Tamanna. It was as if i was refreshing all my memories of Simhastha 2016. Kudos to u

  3. Wonderfully penned, detailed picturisation of the event Tamanna. Got to know a lot. Thanks Zubida for sharing with us.

  4. Excellent article Tamanna…with a little briefing by your mom and my own visit to Ujjain in march…I could visualise the whole event…how I wish even I would have attended this memorable event..

    1. Yes Hajra bai…u wud hv thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for reading it and leaving your comments 🙂

  5. Congratulations Tammana you’ve come up with such a well-written and practical view of the Kumbh. In fact, You’ve pointed out several obvious things that we miss to document on our traveks. I look forward to reading your next next article. Thank you.

    1. awww Mark thanks so much for your comments. (Now say a silent prayer for me to travel more) :p

  6. Very well written!
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us…..feels like we were present there too 😉

  7. Tamanna – Excellently described event in all aspects n respects. Well done. Keep it up ! May u always be blessed with such lovely n accurate writing skills.

    1. Adaab arz karu chu and thank you so much Annie bai sab for your kind words of encouragement.

  8. Very well documented. The loss of missing the event is mitigated to a large extent by your lucid writing. Looking forward to more of such informative articles.

  9. Well documented Tamanna, kudos! Always a lover of distinct cultures and customs,I enjoyed reading your write up. Congo and thanks

  10. Kumbh is an experience n you’ve described it in a wonderful way, Tamanna.Keep writing.

  11. Dear Tamanna you have put about samasth kumb so wel got to know how it is spread out and what really happen s there.zuby did give us in parts but you summarize d so well.God bless you

  12. Great write Tamanna and a greater experience for you, I’m sure. Thanks for penning it down for those of us who weren’t there.

  13. Beautifully penned Tamanna,your article about the Maha Kumbh Simhast took us around the streets of Ujjain viewing the various Sadhus ,Sadhvis&their desciples,and we got a picture of what it was actually like at the Simhast.It was even more interesting ,as we
    had even seen some of the pictures your mother had .forwarded.nice article ,keep writing.

    1. Thanks very much Zohra aunty! So happy you all liked my article. Gives me encouragement to write more 🙂

      1. Well done Tamanna! Very vivid description! Thanks for taking me through it! Loved it n looking for more.

  14. Thammana ur love for traveling is well
    penned in visualizing the Khumb Mela.
    Felt that I missed some important part of
    our habitat. Ur keen observation on every
    existence makes more lively. Communal
    barriers r seen in most of the places but not
    in holy places is proved in ur writing once
    again. Keep going..!!

    1. Thanks so much Surya on your keen observations as seen in your comments. I agree with you. – Tamanna

  15. Tamannah,U hv captured the true essence of the kumbh mela and portrayed it in the most articulate and vivid manner possible ..Best of luck Sis…

  16. Thanks,Tamanna,for having allowed us to experience the kumbh through your eyes and feelings…….It was a visual treat for us….. Really enjoyed reading the article. Very well written . Keep writing

  17. Well composed vivid article, felt as if I was also part the tour. I never knew you are such a good writer. UNITY IN DIVERSITY has been the essence of India for centuries pointed out precisely

  18. Well articulated. I love to read the detailed description of any place or event and it’s perfectly narrated. A little more detail on the event would have enlightened people like me who never have known about kumbh mela

    1. Thank you for your comment. Any religious significane on the Kumbh itself is widely available. This was just my attempt as a ‘tourist’ to talk abt my experience. But, il take ur suggestion for any future writing.
      Thanks again for taking time out to read and comment. 🙂

  19. Tamanna, thank you for sharing this experience! Your writings have always intrigued me and this writing goes to show just why I’m so impressed… Kumbh sounds like an amazing event, especially in the presence of your family;) Although I know little of the culture, your writing immersed me back into the harmony I was able to witness while there. Keep it up! I look forward to reading more 🙂

    1. Thank you John! We missing having you and Malou here. Do write about your travels as well, I so wish I could experience at least a little of it with you guys. Thanks for reading and your comments.

  20. Very well explained.. Now that you resumed writing again, don’t stop to share your experiences. Keep writing more. All the best.

  21. Words like communal disharmony, intolerance…… Etc….. Are brain works of politicians and people with divisive plans…….actually people of Indian never looked at each other in disparity over religion.

    Nice write up Tamanna, I can feel the excitement as I read it.

    1. Yea. I agree with u Devesh!
      It was an experience to be there. Maybe u can go to next time. Thx for ur comments 🙂

  22. Tamanna it’s a vivid description of this wonderful experience which we were fortunate to be a part of , nice to have included the pics.

  23. Tamanna your passion for travel n writing has gelled together so well to bring forth a beautiful peice of writing

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