Posted on in Features by Rob Sidon


Mela comes from a Sanskrit word for “meeting” or “gathering.” The mother of all melas is the Kumbh Mela, which takes place where India’s most sacred river, the Ganges, flows into another great river, the Yamuna (on the banks of which, a few hundred miles upstream, sits the famous Taj Mahal). India’s ancient civilization was born on fertile plains fed by its rivers, and the confluence of these two great rivers is seen in Hindu mythology as the cradle point where Brahma dreamt up all of creation. Kumbh Mela has been taking place here without a break for over 2,000 years!

From Greek ambassador Megasthenes visiting India 2,400 years ago to our own Mark Twain 120 years ago, many have written about the longestrunning spectacle of yoga and spirituality. It is also the largest gathering of humanity on the planet. At the last Mela, an astonishing 30 million pilgrims streamed in—some staying only long enough for a single bathing in the holy waters, others camping out on the riverbed for weeks.

Common Ground brings you a photographic journey of the Kumbh Mela through the eyes of Jasper Johal, a well-known yoga photographer who grew up in India. The happy sadhu you see on the right happens to live only 50 miles from where Jasper was born. They spent many Mela nights sharing stories in Hindi about their ancestral villages over bonfires, chillums, and chai.

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