Image by Mark Troger Bergis Photograph:( Others )
He calls Naga Sadhus the rockstars of Kumbh Mela.
With the beginning of Kumbh on January 15, Prayagraj is lit up like Diwali for the 2019 Kumbh Mela. The first Shahi Snan witnessed unprecedented crowds coming in from across the country and the world More than 15 crore people are expected this time for the Kumbh Mela. I met a German travel photographer, Mark Troger Bergis who is about to write a book on Kumbh and his spiritual journey.
Mark has been travelling to India since 2010 and he first came to India with the renowned photographer Steve McCurry to attend a photography workshop. He landed in Haridwar and was completely stunned by a mass of people.
Mark says it's hard for him to describe the Kumbh but what impressed him the most was Naga Sadhus. He calls them the rockstars of Kumbh Mela. This is Mark's second Kumbh, the first one he attended was held in 2013 in Prayagraj.
"None of the Kumbh gatherings is like the other, I have been here in earlier Kumbh. If I compare two Kumbhs there is a big difference and it's difficult to interpret," he said.
After his first confrontation with Nagas in Haridwar, Mark has been intrigued by their way of living and he has been following them all around in different Kumbh Melas for the past years.
He later travelled to India in 2013 and tried hard to capture the magic moments when Naga Babas come for Shahi Snan in the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mystic river Saraswati. But with millions of people around in the gathering, it was difficult for him to get a perfect shot. In 2015, he visited one more Kumbh and travelled to Nashik, Trimbakeshwar, but he failed again as police stopped him. Nevertheless, in 2016 he finally succeeded and captured Naga babas while they took the royal bath.
"I want to tell people about personal experience and the holy event itself. Still, so many people don't know about it and it's the biggest gathering on earth, they are expecting 120 million people this year and it's unimaginable for the westerners."
Mark feels that the western media has always been unfair to India and has stereotyped it and gathering like Kumbh in many ways. He wants to show the true image to the west. He believes that the west can learn from India in many ways.
"In Christianity, we have events like these but nothing compared to the Kumbh, if you count the number of Hindu people, it's the third largest religion and it troubles me a little that we westerners know so little about Hinduism ."
This time, Mark came with his wife and took the first royal bath. The experience was stunning, especially for his wife. He is going to Switzerland to deliver a speech on Kumbh Mela and will return at the end of January.
One advice that Steve McCurry gave Mark in 2010 was- "If you come to Kumbh Mela you don't have to travel entire India, whole India comes to you in the Kumbh. There is something spiritual on the banks of these rivers."
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)