Special Report:  Kumbha Mela 2001

Allahabad Ė 23th February, 2001

Saying Goodbye to the Kumbha Mela
by Tony Fernandes

This is the last illustrated report on Zenzibar from the Maha Kumbha Mela 2001. We maintained coverage of this unique event in spite many difficulties. We made sure we were here before the beginning and stayed on till after the end. Since I am leaving Allahabad tomorrow morning (24th February) there will be no more regular updates from here.

The Kumbh Mela administration has lifted all restrictions. This has opened up a number of possibilities, some quite amusing. People can now drive their cars up to the waterís edge at the Sangam. Some pilgrims are giving their cars a bath in order to immunize themselves from accidents. Shepherds and farmers are also appearing and making the most of the space available. The city of Allahabad did not experience any power cuts or water supply interruptions during the Kumbh Mela because the country wanted to show the world that India is an efficient place that works. Allahabadis were promised better services as a result of improved and expanded infrastructure. This promise is beginning to melt away fast. Since Shivratri we have had a number of power cuts without warning. The water supply is also being interrupted. Since the media spotlight is no longer here itís back to normality. Fill up the buckets and keep the candles ready folks.

Allahabad and its citizens have been good to me. Saying goodbye is always painful and difficult. When I arrived here on 7th January this place was very cold. Now it is bright and sunny and the Ganges has receded dramatically. The auspicious bathing days were in the future then, but now they are in the past. The event itself is the kind of stuff that happens in dreams. I think I am awake now, but who knows, I could well be asleep. Perhaps in a few months time, this phenomenon that just flashed by will begin to make sense. It has pierced my Heart, and I know it is only a matter of time before the mystery embedded within is gradually revealed.

In December 2000 very few had heard of the Kumbha Mela. Now, a couple of months later, millions around the world have heard about it and many have seen it unfold on TV. I salute the millions of pilgrims who made this a living, pulsating, vibrant and energizing experience for all. The pain and struggle that many of them went through to get here is beyond belief. Faith has no logic or reason. Faith is something we must all learn to cultivate. The pilgrims here have taught me that vulnerability is an important key to faith. I saw it in action.

Three cheers for the pilgrim. 
Three cheers for Prayaga Raja. 
Three cheers for the Kumbha Mela. 
Three cheers to you.


Tony Fernandes was Zenzibar's correspondent at Kumbh Mela 2001 in Allahabad, India.


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