Kumbha Mela 2001 Photo Gallery - Page 32
Photos and article from Maghi Purnima, the last bathing day of this Kumbha Mela - February 8, 2001 

Maghi Purnima comes at the end of the auspicious month of Magh. It brings to an end the cycle of this Kumbh Mela and with its conclusion thousands of pilgrims called Kalpvasis, who have spent weeks here will now be packing up and going home. This last auspicious bathing day of the Kumbh began at 3.07pm on 7th February and concluded at 1.09pm on Thursday 8th February.

On the eve of this day 32 Aartis (A ritual with fire, singing and prayers) were performed at the Sangam and the Treveni on 11 fully loaded boats. This was lead by the Allahabad city elite.

The Mela administration believes the second largest number of people after Mauni Amavasya attended Maghi Purnima. They put the figure at around 10 million pilgrims. The Police chief believes it was between 6 and 7 million. I personally believe there were no more than 3.5 million pilgrims who had their snan between midday on 7th February and late evening of 8th February. Everyone was taken aback by the numbers arriving. The mela administration expected less than half of the numbers turning up. They therefore made no special plans. Most of the bathers had their snan in three different places; at the Sangam, in Arail and at the ghats in sector 5. Due to the concentration of pilgrims on roads leading mainly to the Sangam area there was the illusion that the numbers were second only to Mauni Amavasya. I believe Makar Sankranti on 14th January had the second largest gathering of this Kumbh Mela.

Either way, whichever estimates one uses, this religious festival is by any measure the largest gathering of human beings in a single place in history. There is, no doubt, something very special about the whole event. Each bathing day brought with it a specific atmosphere and for those who think in terms of energies, a particular type of energy. Magh Purnima, the last of these bathing days in this 144 year Maha Kumbh cycle, had a relaxed feel to it. I felt the Ganga acknowledging us for our presence. She opened Herself up by reducing her flow so as to allow us to play in Her bosom. Those who were here on the other days would not have had this opportunity. Soothing bhajans were sung and piped across the mela and slowly as the Sun went down, even the colour of the sky seemed different. For those who are always yearning for events like this, it will be a long wait till 2013 and, via another life, an even longer wait until the next Great Maha Kumbh of 2145.

Many consider Maghi Purnima to be the last day of the Kumbh Mela. The Ganga perhaps agrees because She has decided to give us the shallowest day of this Kumbh. There are more people and more shrines on all of the sandbanks than ever before.

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11am. For this throng, Maghi Purnima is over and it is time for the long march home.

Lunchtime. This is a good place to hang out because the mela authorities permit cooking fires in this area.

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Thousands choose to have their heads shaved, it is a sign that they have been on a pilgrimage. This picture was taken in an area reserved for this purpose. There are probably more barbers here per square foot than anywhere else on Earth, and piles of hair everywhere.

A tired pilgrim is being helped on her way home after her snan today. I have seen hundreds of very old women and men with severe spinal bends of ninety degrees or worse walking long distances to get here.

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Composite picture of the Sangam and the Treveni at 12.30pm.

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Tony Fernandes
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