Kulbah Mela: the Las Vegas of spirituality

Every 12 years, Indians people, and a few western tourists, are converging by millions toward Allahabad to bath and get purified in the Ganga river, at the sacred place called Sangham, where it encounters the Yamuna river (and another mythical river). It is the biggest human gathering in the world. On about 60 km², numerous camps are been built to welcome all the visitors. Each camp has a guru, disciples and its own way to venerate to Gods. Arriving at night, I had the impression I just ended up in the Las Vegas of spirituality: if you chose the good guru, you may access heaven; otherwise, you lose all your money! Huge doors full of lightening are inviting the visitors to come in, as well as noisy speakers, 24h on! Many posters are advertising different gurus. I had the impression to be in a guru supermarket. I walked for hours through these sandy never ending streets to learn more about Hinduism, mediation and guru’s life. I met guru smoking hash the whole day and having extra-long dreads, others practicing tantra and drinking water in a human skull, and some other called “naga” living nicked…

I then realized the Hinduism is a mix of all the existing religions, because any God, any person, or even any object can help you to reach the “moksha” (like heaven for Christians). I saw then some families adoring, at the same time, a picture of Jesus, one of Vishnu and one other of a guru. I even saw people adoring a king of grass. So the medium is not important, only maters the aim. The purpose of any Hindu is to reach “Moksha”, a state of non-desire, comparable to awaked sleep… To reach it, many ways are available. Some chose to become Sadhu, and leave their life to practice yoga, meditation and mantra chanting.

The first day, I simply followed other people. We started by a yoga lesson early in the morning and then, I ended up in a “Sat Song”, meaning a spiritual teaching in the camp of Prem Baba, a very well know guru for foreigners. I discovered a luxurious camp where only foreigners were allowed, a sort of spiritual Club Med, very expensive. I followed this guru, among 50 other foreigners in the Ganga River, for my first bath. It was supposed to purify me, but at the end I felt rather dirty! I stay very skeptical in front of all these “disciples” blindly following their guru, some for years… What are they looking for? What can it bring them? This spirituality looks more like an efficient business for a guru, than a real path toward internal peace…

Away from this fake spirituality and these crazy businesses, I discover the Indian hospitality by spending time with Indian families in my camp. Kids and women are very happy to talk to me and they make me try many different local sweets made with milk, honey and sugar. I start to learn some basics of Indian language and cooking. Girls are drawing henna on my hands or making me an Indian hairstyle. Women even offered me a “sari” and though me how to wear it. As Indians people consider the guest as a God, they are very welcoming. I also discover a more real spirituality with the couchsurfeur Iqbal, who spent 9 hours a day practicing rituals when I met him. Nevertheless he took time to show me around and explain me many things about the Indians culture and spirituality…

(see some pictures on the French version)


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