We broke most of our rules in this one. And for good reason. The issue focuses almost entirely on the extraordinary Kumbh Mela held recently at Prayag, where three holy rivers converge. Readers may know that this is the largest gathering of human beings in the world. This year, fully 30 million were at the mela on the most holy day, February 10th, and a mind-boggling 130 million attended during the entire month. How big and difficult is that to engineer? Well the city of Tokyo has 30 million residents, and the mela is miles of temporary tents on a sandy river bed.
Our intrepid team, a journalist and photographer, captured the event on all levels, from the personal trials and tribulations of pilgrims to the initiation of 1,600 sadhus on the banks of the Ganges, a highly-protected and private event that we were miraculously able to attend and capture for you. They interviewed 250 people and took 5,500 photos. So when we saw what they had experienced, we were compelled to share it with you and set other feature articles aside. We realized that while 130 million Hindus were there in person, 870 million more were not. We present the full experience, from the comfort of your home.
Countless camps and events took place. One sadvi, a woman monastic, held a Women's Empowerment Day at her camp, raising all of the gender issues of the day, which are a hot topic in India of late. Muniji of the Parmath Niketan Ashram put his considerable influence to work in orchestrating a Green Mela initiative, and himself joined the teams to clean the River Ganges. His article explains the importance of environmental consciousness to India and to seekers.
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak bravely brought a group of untouchables to the gathering, and formally freed them all of the onus of social ostracism. His story lights a lamp of hope for the future, a future "in which all may share the well, the pond, the temple and the dining table."
The words of pilgrims will give you courage in undertaking life's difficulties, and the counsel from the swamis will inspire you forward on your chosen path. And the photos.... so many awesome photos that will make you a virtual pilgrim to the river sangam.
In this issue's Publisher's Desk, Bodhinatha to your home, to teach you how to approach God with love and never in fear. It's a common truth, that people do things out of fear of God's retribution. Common, but not necessary, as you will learn in his editorial.
You're living in California and wondering if it's safe to go to the big all-stone Hindu temple in town, since this is an earthquake zone, one of the most active on Earth. Well, if your town is Chino Hills near Los Angeles and the temple is the Swaminarayana Mandir, then you are safe. You see, the talented BAPS sadhus and volunteers built this new temple, which reaches 79 feet high, on 40 specially-designed supports called base isolators. If an earthquake hits, and it will, the entire stone temple can move up to four feet horizontally and still remain intact. The article dives into the fascinating details, and explores how the group fought successfully against local resistance to their presence.
There's more, of course. A where-am-I-? cartoon, a story of how much it costs to own an elephant, a new crossword puzzle as well as a few surprises found in our quotes and letters. It's all there in the current issue of Hinduism Today, where you go to stay in touch with Sanatana Dharma.