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Travel Information

Getting there:
Access to Allahabad is possible by air or surface transport. It is recommended that guests use air and road transport to reach Allahabad.

By Air

There is a daily flight from Delhi to Allahabad (AI 9604) and the airport is 45 – 60 minutes drive to Sangam Nivas

By Road

From Varanasi:
approximately 3 hours driving time to Sangam Nivas

From Lucknow:
approximately 6 hours driving time to Sangam Nivas

Note: The above driving times are approximate and based upon travel by a car. If the journey is by coaches, then the driving time will be extended by an hour approximately, subject to road and traffic conditions. However, given the crowds and diversions, the final timings will depend on the current applicable situations.

By Train

The closest rail-head is Allahabad junction. It is well connected to Delhi, Howrah and Mumbai.

The drive time to Sangam Nivas is 30 minutes.

Important Documents

  • A valid Government approved ID with photo is a must for Indian nationals.
  • For foreigners, their passport with valid Indian Visa is essential.

Medical

Water

Drink only bottled water and always check that the seal is unbroken. Mineral water is readily available. Avoid food and drinks from street vendors and restaurants that might have suspicious refrigeration and sanitary practices.

Clothing

The dress code is to be modest and comfortable. Kindly note that during the months from January to beginning March, the weather is pleasant to very cold with occasional possibility of rain, hence full-sleeved cotton or denim shirts/blouses and a light jumper/fleece shawl is recommended. Warm layered clothes will also suffice.

Local Culture

Akharas at the Kumbh


One of the most striking sights for any visitor to Kumbh Mela is the Shahi (royal) procession of the Hindu holy men on certain specific bathing days. The different Akharas assemble under their sect banners during the Kumbh which is often regarded as the world’s greatest theological symposium.

The term Akhara literally means a wrestling ring. It also denotes the circle of followers of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Adi Shankaracharya founded the seven major Akharas in India. These are Juna, Mahanirvani, Atal, Niranjani, Agni, Anand and Avahan Akharas. The sanyasis and sadhus gather under the respective banners of their Akhara for the entire duration of the Kumbh Mela.

The sadhus are divided into four major categories – Nagas (Sanyasis), Vairagi (Mundies), Udasi and Nirmala (Nanak Sahi). These four categories are then further organised into different Akharas. There exists a predetermined order which the various Akharas follow during the Shahi procession on the specific bathing days.

These camps are usually open to visitors from the early hours of the morning till late evening and offer the visitors an unparalleled chance to interact with the sadhus. Whether clad in the saffron robes, sporting loincloths or tiger skins, the sadhus and sanyasis make a visit to the Akharas an experience of a lifetime.

The Juna Akhara, with over 400,000 sanyasis is perhaps the largest of the different sects present in the fair and truly the most fascinating. A vast majority of the members of this Akhara are Naga Babas (naked ascetics). Considered to be the defenders of the Sanatan Dharma, these sanyasis march naked, covered in holy ash during the bathing rituals at the Kumbh. This elite brotherhood of naga sadhus and sanyasis are regarded as the “holiest of holy men” by the Hindu believers and much of the attention of those arriving at the Kumbh revolves around them.

The Jangams, a band of mystical travelling bards are closely attached to the naga babas and can be seen singing at their camps. Their musical tales tell stories of gods and goddesses, great saints and secret knowledge. The lilting melodies accompanied by primordial musical instruments are capable of inducing a trance-like state in the listeners.

Each Akhara and its members offer a unique peek into the varied and captivating history of ascetism and mysticism of India. Their beliefs, theories, tilaks, rituals and traditions all add different and unique flavours and colours to the mystical melting pot of Kumbh Mela.

Customs & Rituals

The important rituals conducted during the Kumbh Mela include having a sacred dip in the holy river, religious discussions, mass-feeding the poor and women along with devotional singing. There are lively debates on religious doctrines as well. One can spot several yogis, sadhus and saints involved in the engagement of penance.

Snana (the holy bath) in the waters of the sacred and cosmically charged river is the main ritual of the Kumbh Mela. Other activities and rites that are performed at this time include Dhyana (meditation), Puja (worship), Paatha (prayer), Katha (listening to religious stories), religious discourses on different topics and mass feeding of holy men and women and those who are less fortunate.

Singing of devotional songs, offering of food, holy water and prayers to one’s ancestors and chanting of sacred mantras are also some of the rites observed by the devotees. The faithful come to Kumbh to seek the blessings and guidance from holy men whom they believe to be Siddha (enlightened) and in possession of supernatural powers.

As the ascetics are notoriously elusive and do not stay in the same place for a long time, the Kumbh offers pilgrims and devotees a chance to access them and receive spiritual guidance and instructions. It is also the perfect platform for visitors wanting a glimpse into the secular aspects of this epic event. It is any anthropologist’s dream come true and a veritable paradise for photographers.

Indian Spiritual Markings on the Foreheads

Tikka (Olaf Rocksien)

  • Horizontal row 1 from left to right: items 1-5 Brahma and / or the Trimurti.
  • Horizontal row 2-4: Visnu and his followers - Vaisnavas or Vaisnavites
  • Horizontal row 5-7: Siva and / of his followers - Saivas or Shivites.

Language

Hindi and English are widely spoken languages across the state of Uttar Pradesh

Weather

The weather in Allahabad during the winter months varies from a minimum of 6°C in January to 17°C in March. In the month of January there can be dense fog, hence guests are advised to check the weather forecasts at the time of their travel to Allahabad. The maximum temperature varies from 23°C in January to 34°C in March.

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