Westerners connect with their spiritual side at Maha Kumbh


Foreigners attending the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, are connecting with their spiritual side through yoga on the banks of the Ganges River.

Sitting cross-legged and breathing rhythmically, the pilgrims are reportedly enjoying moments of peace.

The yoga session was part of a week-long festival that also involved ritual bathing and meditation.

"A Divine Shakti (Power) Festival, which started on January 24, will conclude today. In the festival, people are connecting with God through yoga, meditation, bathing in the Sangam, and through seeking the blessings of ascetics," said Sadhvi Bhagwati Saraswati, one of the organizers.

Ma Prem Chandni, a pilgrim of Iranian origin, said that yoga has helped her draw away from leading a materialistic life, and that India is now a place where she regularly travels to in search of spiritual solace.

"I fell into the path of yoga in 2000, and immediately, I woke up to something within myself that made me see the world from a different place. From that time onwards, I have travelled and come to India many times, bringing people with me, discovering more and more," Chandni said.

Once every 12 years, tens of millions of pilgrims from India and abroad stream into Allahabad for the Maha Kumbh Mela at the point where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet with a third, mythical river the Saraswati.

The festival has its roots in a Hindu tradition that says God Vishnu wrested from demons a golden pot containing the nectar of immortality.

In a 12-day fight for possession, four drops fell to earth, in the cities of Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. Every three years a Kumbh Mela is held at one of these spots, with the festival at Allahabad the holiest of them all.

More than 2,000 years old, the festival is also a meeting point for the Hindu sadhus or hermits, some who live in forests or Himalayan caves, and who belong to dozens of inter-related congregations.

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