The idea that we should probably go to Allahabad during the Maha-Kumbh Mela came up in early Jan this year, when the arrangements were announced by the UP Government. It somehow remained in the idea phase for one reason or another until mid-Jan when we decided to actually travel. The plan that finalized included the in-laws, Hubby and myself.
Brief background about the Maha-Kumbh Mela:
Legend traces the history of the Kumbh Mela back to the story of Sagar Manthan or churning of the primordial ocean. The story starts with the King of the Devas, Indra, insulting Sage Durvasa with is arrogance. In anger, Sage Durvasa curses the Devas to lose their wealth, hence ridding them of their arrogance. The Devas, weakened by the curse, and unable to withstand the attacks by the Asuras, approach Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu advises them to churn the primordial ocean of milk to get amrit, nectar of the Gods.
To achieve this purpose, the Deva struck a truce with the Asuras on the assurance that they too would receive a share of all the wealth that comes out of the ocean as well a share of the amrit. The mountain to be used for churning was Mount Mandar, and the rope would be Vasuki, Lord of the Nagas. For 12 days and 12 nights (equivalent to 12 human years), the Devas and Asuras churned the ocean for amrit. When it finally emerged, there was a struggles between the Devas and Asura to take it. Finally Lord Vishnu took the form of Mohini, and cheated the Asuras out of the amrit. It was during the struggle between the Devas and Asuras that 4 drops of nectar fell onto the Earth, at Allahabad, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain.
Hence the Kumbh Mela is celebrated at these locations only.
The Kumbh Mela is held at all four locations and occurs every 2 years. The Ardha Kumbh Mela occurs ever 6 years and is held at Haridwar and Prayag (Allahabad), while the Purna Kumbha Mela occurs every 12 years and is held only at Prayag (Allahabad). The Maha-Kumbh Mela occurs once in 144 years and is held only at Prayag (Allahabad).
Planning the Trip:
Since we started the planning process only in mid-Jan when the festival was already underway, it took quite a bit of working out for the logistics. We needed to be sure that we got a weekend, preferable long weekend, but not overlapping with a Shahi Snan day. Shahi Snan day are some of the important days during the period, and usually features a huge surge in the number of people visiting Mela. While it is definitely more auspicious to visit during those days, we felt it would be too strenuous for the In-laws and us to manage through the crowds.
Furthermore, we couldn’t travel by train. There are no direct trains to Allahabad from Bangalore. We necessarily would need to take a journey that stops at Nagpur, and change to an Allahabad bound train. The time taken for such a journey would require at least a week of travel time, which wasn’t very convenient. This, assuming we could manage the tickets, which were booked up for the next 3 months anyway! 😀
The travel plan was finally drawn up: travel to Lucknow by flight on 7th March, travel to Allahabad and onward to Varanasi on the 8th, Stay at Varanasi on 9th, travel back to Lucknow on 10th and fly out on the same day. An additional bit of coordination between the in-laws an us ensued, since we live in different cities, but the plan was finally made!
The next phase was booking of hotel rooms. Lucknow was relatively easy. Hubby searched out some hotels on the net, and I spoke and booked the rooms. Pretty straight-forward in all. They also assured us that they would be able to provide us with a taxi for the duration of our travels.
Varanasi was a bit more difficult. 10th March was Mahasivaratri, one of the most auspicious times of Siva worship. Varanasi is the home to Lord Viswanath, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas or swayambu Sivalingas, as well as of Goddess Visalakshi, consort of Shiva, and an important Shakthi Peetham. This made finding hotels a difficult prospect. Also since Mahasivarathri also signified the end of the Maha-Kumbh Mela, most devotees would necessarily come to Varanasi on that day from Allahabad, which was a 3-hour drive away.
After calling about 10 hotels, finally one gave us a positive response, and confirmed our rooms. Of course, we called them every week till we travelled over just be sure we actually had those rooms! 😉
The start of The Trip:
Finally the day of our trip dawned. The in-laws reached Bangalore in the morning, and a few hours later we made our way to the airport. It was a 3-hour directly flight to Lucknow.The sky in Bangalore was totally over-cast, and it started raining just as we were boarding the plane. But it definitely made for some nice photos as we climbed over the clouds!
The travel desk at the Hotel Amarpreet at Lucknow was very helpful in their co-ordination for an airport transfer. It was further helpful that the driver of the Innova was a friendly guy who kept up a cheerful banter about Lucknow the entire journey home.
We reached the hotel by 7pm. After checking in, and a short trip to the travel desk by Hubby and FIL for travel confirmations, we sat down for a refreshing cup of chai and samosa. The samosas weren’t made at the hotel itself, but were purchased from a vendor outside. But the samosas were not, and definitely some of the tastiest we’d ever had!
After a quick dinner of hot rotis and subzi, we called it an early night to prepare for the journey the next day.
- The Maha-Kumbh (2013) Yatra – Allahabad (weekendholidays.wordpress.com)