Sharunas & Adele had to take a train 1 hour later than mine. We planned to reunite but in the end were separated for the 10km pilgrimage into the vast Mela because their train arrived 4 hours earlier (mine was 7 hours late) . I was quite scared leaving the train station alone considering it was packed, seriously packed, over 30 people were killed in a stampede a week before. The street was no different, there was just a sea of people heading towards and away from Kumbh Mela. Luckily I met a traveler named Shivum who spoke Hindi and taught me many useful things about Indian customs. As we walked people were celebrating in the streets, giving us Chai tea and sweets, it was so wonderful. The celebration didn’t last long when the sky opened up torrents of rain on all the pilgrims. We initially ran for shelter, but decided we had to keep walking or be lost in the dark maze of tents.
We stopped and check out this satsang (there is Shivum on the left)
After walking and walking and walking, we were wet, cold, and unsure how much farther until Rainbow Camp. No one gave us definitive directions, and the darker it got the less people we found to ask where to go. We stopped for a Masala Chai. Shivum ran to the nearest temple to check if there was food, because we were starving after 4 hours of walking. While I was waiting at the Chai tent two young boys came up to practice their English and I bought them chai. They told me their parents where in the temple below the towering 30 ft shiva statue. When Shivum came back he was smiley and giddy telling me to go check out the statue. I introduced him to the boys and we decided to go meet their parents.
We were greeted with hospitality and led to a tent where food was being prepared. Everyone else was still at a temple service, but they insisted on us eating first before everyone came back. This was my first cross legged Indian meal. As soon as we started eating about 50 people came in and stood there watching us in silence as we slowly enjoy endless rice, chapati, dal and curry. The man that helped us get food kept coming around and shooing the crowd away. Every time a crowd left a new crowd would slowly pour into the tent and stand around us. Several walked up to practice English saying things like, “Good manners, very good manners” or “Handsome pretty men”. After we finished eating they took us to a tent WITH ELECTRICITY to sleep. The switch was disconnecting the exposed wire behind the bulb, and every time we bumped the edge of the tent the bulb would turn on or off in the middle of the night. In the morning we were awoken by the boys to eat breakfast and take a photo shoot with the whole family.
The day started with more rain and another hour walk to find rainbow. Our arrival was perfectly timed because upon entering the rainbow camp it started coming down hard. When it let up we all rejoiced, dancing and singing in the mud. This was the most powerful group of 30-40 people I have ever been with. We ate and then it started pouring again. Though we were all enjoying ourselves with the makeshift tarp tents, everyone was soaked already and there was nowhere warm. The Indian Police came and said they were evacuating us, that much of the Kumbh Mela was flooded (the camp grounds are the flood plains of the Ganga river and it isn’t suppose to rain yet) and many people were leaving. They wanted money from us so we said no. Then a messenger from a near by camp the Dadu Babas said we were welcome to join them. Most of us ran over there and joined the Babas where they immediately fed us. The tent they put us in ended up flooding after an hour of rain, so we had to move to another tent. The other tent wasn’t much drier, so most people didn’t sleep. We stood around the fire smoking hashish chillum after chillum with the happy laughing Babas.
The next morning we were introduced to Guruji the top spiritual man of the camp. He invited me to join them in their caravan back to Jaipur that day. I started helping them pack up, carrying 50 lbs sacks of rice. Every time we finished a tent full of sacks, there was another tent, and if I tried to take a break they would push me on and say just one more, just one more. I couldn’t go on any more, I had probably carried 25 bags with no break. I snuck around the corner to sit by the fire with Guruji. He didn’t look at me or speak to me with same respect he had earlier that morning. At that moment I realized that joining them was accepting this man as my Guru, and though I could feel the spiritual power of this man, could not imagine myself below him in any way. I could only imagine respecting him for his wisdom and feel an equal in body.
I headed out immediately and saw the destruction of the storm last night along the way. Inside the destruction of thousands of camps I saw the beauty and softness of the Ganga soil & ecosystem. After bathing in the Ganga, it was time to move forward so I headed toward the train station.