“Travel always fascinated me and I try to capture the moments that I face when I travel. Due to the hectic schedule of my daily life, I cannot visit much places. This time, I was lucky to visit Nashik for the holy Kumbh. One day while flipping through the pages of a newspaper, I came across the news about Kumbh and decided to make a visit during the Holy occasion. Kumbh has been one of the main pilgrimage for Hindus in which they gather to take bath in the rivers; I visited Nashik which is the source of river Godavari. Millions gather to take holy dip at Kumbh to cleanse their mind and souls.” Susobhan Aich narrates his experiences of his Nashik Kumbh trip in this article.
I tried my best to book ticket for first SahiSnan (29.08.2015) but could not find accommodation for that day. I, therefore, had to postpone my date of journey to next week (05.09.2015). This was an auspicious day, since, it was Janmastami. However, this time, I was lucky enough to get an accommodation.
My aim was directed not only to capture the aura and holiness of Kumbh but to capture the humans associated with Kumbh specially the sadhus.
When I arrived at Kumbh my first problem was to hunt for an accommodation for myself in a hotel quickly, since, I was in a hurry to visit Trimbakeshwar.
With the help of an auto driver Santosh, I was able to get a hotel near to CBS bus stand of Nashik.
After getting fresh, I took a bus form Nashik CBS to Trimbakeshwar. The bus was very good (atleast the bus I rode). It took 40 mins to reach Trimbakeshwar.
I was really very confused from where to start as I was alone and no one to guide. Also, the Kunds were scattered from one place to another unlike Allahabad. I asked people for the direction of Trimbaknath Temple and went straight towards it. Near to Trimbaknath temple, there was a huge crowd since it was Janmastami. It was a mass gathering. I saw ladies carrying Kalas with coconut on their head. The Kalas were filled up with the holy water from the Kund. There was a Sanyasi / baba travelling in the chariot with lot of assistants. When I asked someone from the crowd, he said “Bahot bade baba hai, siddhpurushhai”. After clicking few shots I went to other direction.
I moved from there to one Akhara. There I met with Ganeshji (a sweet seller) who advised me to go to the nearby hills to photograph the Naga-sanyasis or rather the Aghoris. I was excited and proceeded ahead without wasting any more time.
The first Aghori or Naga Sanyasi I visited was “Jhoola baba”. He came from Haridwar. He was barely talking. Somehow, I tried to make the conversation more interesting so that I can get few shots. His assistant (chela) told me he has been out of his home since he was fifteen. However, he didn’t remember much of his childhood memories. I walked off after taking few shots.
I directly went to the next camp of Baba Ramanuj from Varanasi. He was a “mouni” baba which meant he is silent and don’t speak to anyone. His assistant Anandmaharaj told that he has been silent for 10 years now. That means he speaks once in a decade and look at us we barely can stay for few minutes without speaking! I tried to give rupees 100 as donation but nor he neither his Anandmaharaj took that. Anandmaharaj told me “Hume iski zaroorat nahi hai”. They don’t need that; they are out of this fake world of desire and need. At the end, I was given “Bibhuti” or Holy ash. Anandmaharaj told me that in Varanasi in some special occasions they apply Bibhuti of Human dead body ash over their body because some rituals are incomplete without dead body ash. I was shocked to hear that.
Next, I visited few more Aghoris but not all allowed me to photograph them. I was lucky enough to photograph two more Aghoris. Although the story was small but I got my story what I was looking for. I was trying to get the story behind them. Aghoris were known for their ghostly appearances with marijuana sticks. They have human skulls with other animals to for their rituals. Actually they are the devotees of lord Shiva or Bhairava.
I came back to hotel in the afternoon as I was not feeling well. I took my lunch and then slept for 2 hours. I wake up at 6 pm in the evening. I dressed up quickly to see the Ram Kund, most important Kund of Nashik. Luckily it was at a few Kilometres distance from the hotel where I was staying. When I reached there, I saw there was a huge gathering of people from different pockets of the country for taking the Holy Dip. Everybody was enjoying the cool water as temperature was quite high that day. I saw many shutterbugs like me clicking the people around. I came back to hotel at 9 pm experiencing a precious experience in my life.
But my journey to Nashik corrected my few concepts. Aghoris are the saints with simple lifestyle. Their life is simple even though the rituals they follow are very complex. They don’t have commitment towards their family but have commitment towards their deity; they have commitments towards their religion. They are free from everything yet they follow some rules. Skipping a course of meal may be a problem for us but they can live without eating for days. Each and every sadhu has a special power which they develop over the years. It is really hard to believe that they possess such powers as we are normal human beings but this is the real truth as they are super humans. I am a very small person to write about them but I wrote what I felt after meeting them.
Next morning I came back to Pune catching early morning bus.
Stay safe, take care.
Photos: Susobhan Aich
Susobhan is a self taught photographer and he enjoys travelling to new places. He hails from steel city Durgapur, presently based out of Pune and holds an executive position in a corporate company.