Despite the sheer flood of spiritual travellers, holy men and photographers, the Nashik Kumbh, as always, promises to allure. It is, after all, one of the most significant Hindu congregations held every three years in either Ujjain, Haridwar, Trimbak (Nashik) or Prayag (Allahabad).
Nashik’s history is draped in myth and legends, but Trimbakeshwar – about 30km from the city from where river Godavari originates – is the reason it is a chosen destination for the Kumbh Mela.
The diversity of these pilgrims on a spiritual quest and the varied scape of religious fervour that one can see is nothing less than stunning. But you need to be about your wit when at the scene. And here’s what you should do:
Since the Kumbh grounds sprawl over a large area, practically taking over the entire spread of the city, where you stay is important if you want easy access to the event’s main activities. Hotels near the exact Kumbh site are limited, but temporary camps have made their way to the hospitality scape. Choose from basic to luxury sites that offer food, stay and guidance on getting around as well as different spiritual activities in the evenings. The Wooden Cottage Camp (tel: +91 9699773300) is an option.
The bathing area in Nashik is not as large as the one in Allahabad, so expect more crammed spaces. The ghats of the river are cordoned off in places and manned by the river police and Kumbh authorities. People tend to follow the akhadas, who get preference, with the result of causing a jam on the ghats. But it’s possible to bathe with ease after the holy men have had a bath. The ghats are open till much after the allocated time for the akhadas.
Photography (and dealing with the crowd)
While the entire Kumbh area is open to photographers, it is best to associate yourself with one of the akhadas, by taking prior permission from the leader. Many of them are happy to get photographed, provided you send them the images later. If this courtesy is extended, you can attach yourself to the group and walk along with them. This not only makes maneuvering the crowds easier, you also get ample opportunity to get all the behind-the-scenes action on film.
Safety and security
If you are travelling with a group, identify key spots and times when everyone will meet. Also look out for the lost and found announcement booth where one can seek help, if needed.
By car: Journey down the NH3 beyond Kasara. The drive is comfortable.
By bus: Maharashtra State Transport’s Asiad buses headed to Nashik stop at Igatpuri; board at Dadar’s Asiad bus stand. Fare to Igatpuri is Rs 160. Eight buses leave through the day beginning from 8am onwards. Alternatively, private buses plying to Nashik stop at Igatpuri’s Manas Resort. Fare is between Rs 200 (non-AC) and Rs 450 (AC).
By train: Choose from a long list of trains from Mumbai’s Dadar, CST as well as Bandra Terminus, and alight at Igatpuri.
*We recommend checking prices once before starting.
The views are the author’s own and do not reflect those of Lonely Planet India.