One of the most amazing things to witness at the Kumbh Mela festival is the parade of sadhus (monks). The parade takes place on the main bathing just before the auspicious time for the dip in the holy Ganges river. Monks parade from their tented areas in thousands to the river. Here are a collection of photos from the Kumbha Mela festival that took place in 2010 in Haridwar, North India.

Our spiritual and photography tour to the Kumbh Mela festival and north India next February begins in 5 months and 9 days. For those of you who are thinking of joining us I suggest to sign up as soon as possible as it will become almost impossible to get accommodations and even transportation to the festival. Train tickets sell out in a day when they go on sale when what you are attending is the largest human gathering on earth.

 

The Kumbha Mela is, needless to say, a photographers paradise. For those of us who have never been to a Kumbha Mela or never will, it is these men and women that do their best to bring this experience to our doorstep by photographing this exhilarating festival, if it is even possible at all to do so.

It’s not an easy task to say the least. Long hours on your feet, being shoved, pushed and pulled in every which way and every thing taking place in a split of a second.

The main bathing day with the colorful parade is especially challenging. Nobody seems to know what, where and when things will be taking place. One can only hope to be positioned in the right place so I was up early and placed myself in what I thought would be a strategic position. But before long I was sandwiched into a crowd with absolutely no way to move in any direction. I watched in utter dismay the parade of sadhus go by. My lens sadly hidden behind a sea of heads.

After the parade was over everyone that had gathered headed off in a different direction or followed the procession to the Ganges river. The street had never been so empty in the last few days. I waited there thinking that perhaps, if it is my good karma, that theses sadhus would return the same way they went down to the river. And surely enough my patience paid off. About an hour or so of patiently waiting the parade returned and this time I ensured I was perfectly placed.

Many of the sadhus don’t mind being photographed. In fact, some of them will gladly pose for you. But it is always polite to seek permission first before taking a photo of these holy men and women especially if you are coming in close for a portrait shot. During the day I also occasionally pointed the camera in the opposite direction and captured the images above showcasing a few of the photographers present at the Kumbha Mela.

If you would like to be at the Kumbha Mela festival next February in India for an amazing spiritual experience and boundless photographic opportunities do join our spiritual adventure that is planned to take us across North India. Click this link to find out more about our Kumbh Mela spiritual and photography tour.

 

I enjoyed my time in the little town of Nagaur. Located 2 hours north of Jodhpur in state of Rajasthan, India, Nagaur is a little oasis in the desert with literally nothing around it. And there is nothing to do in this town other meets its people and get a flavor of local life. And the one place to stay is Ranvas Nagaur, the 4th century fort which has been partially converted to a boutique hotel.

On the evening we arrived there we explored the town and here are a few photos of some of the locals I photographed.

old-woman-rajasthan-india in town of Nagaur

Drinking chai, Indian tea, is a favorite indulgence for most locals.

The metal pot maker holds up one of his latest pieces.

 

As part of our south Indian cooking class that we has organized we learned about the different types of rice dishes that are prepared in the region. Well, we learned about three dishes at least.

They were the curry leaf rice, tomato rice and lemon rice. And the best part is that we got to sample all three of them. Yummy!

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Morning at the Madurai Meenakshi Temple. Tamil Nadu, South India. (Part 2)

Within the walls of Madurai’s famed Meenakshi temple we explore the area in front of the Siva Sanctum. The pillars in this area are amazing in beauty and in size, and probably the best in the entire temple. Most of these I did not photograph but amongst all the gigantic pillars there was one that was quite simple but very popular among many of the pilgrims. The statue of the Mahadeva (great angel) Hanuman was carved on it. Hanuman is the popular monkey faced being who is worshiped by most Hindus.

Here he is covered in an orange-red paste. Countless pilgrims stop by him, touching his feet in search of blessing and lighting small clay oil lamps in offering. Hanuman is getting much attention amongst the devout pilgrims of this temple.

The morning light was just right to capture all of this and I quietly positioned myself next to a nearby pillar and took the following photos. I hope you enjoy them.

A statue of Hanuman portrudes out of a tall granite pillar at the Madurai Meenakshi temple.

An elder pilgrim touches Hanuman's feet in search of blessings.

A lamp is kept filled with oil throughout the day and burns brightly next to Hanuman.

 

2013 kumbh-mela-itinerary in Allahabad and across India

A 13-day epic journey to the Kumbha Mela and across North India

The map above does not shy away in reminding us that our spiritual adventure will take us almost all the way across north India. A massive distance to cover with a great many things to see in between. It also tells us that most of our travel will be by train. 4 train rides in total including an overnight ride which is always fun. I love traveling by train in India and have always felt it is one of the best ways to see the country and to interact with the locals.

Click here to see details of our Kumbha Mela itinerary.

Dates: 4th to 16th Feb, 2013
Duration: 12 nights, 13 days

 

mendut-temple-and monastery central-java indonesia

Another wonder in Central Java is the small but beautiful Mendut temple. It’s on the itinerary for one of the places for us to visit during our upcoming meditation and wellness retreat in Indonesia in September.

Located a little over 3 kms from Borobudur this temple may appear insignificant to the mighty Borobudur but is home to an exquisitely carved 3 meter high statue of Buddha. Unlike most statues of Buddha that are usually carved in the lotus position or in a laying down position, this Buddha is seated, western-style, majestically in a throne with both feet firmly placed on the ground.

A massive, beautiful, sprawling ficus tree stands next to the temple, a quiet symbol of endurance and patience, two essential qualities on the spiritual path.

Next to the Mendut temple is the Mendut Buddhist Monastery which has beautifully kept grounds and small ponds of lotuses and lilies.

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Buddha statue in Mendut Temple in Central Java