Pilgrim

Hundreds of men stopped me, asking me to take their photo. Then they thanked me – even though they would never see their photo, they were honoured that I’d taken their image. It was rare however that they’d smile. For most Indian people a portrait is a straight faced moment. Pilgrim The Kumbh Mela is a festival driven my love and faith. Millions of pilgrims came to Allahabad, on the banks of the Ganges, to celebrate. Despite the crowds and the 24 hour party, it was peaceful. What an incredible place. And a testament to town planning – to build sewage systems that efficient and odourless, for that many people? Amazing.

Naga Babas

After a sleepless, hash-infused night at the Kumbh Mela, these Naga Babas were almost ready for the big run to the Ganges. Naga Babas Their initiation almost complete, with the sun rising after a long cold night, they prepared for the craziest part of the festival.

Initiates

We rounded the corner of some tents, appreciating the quality of the impressive toilets at the festival, whereupon, spread before our eyes, under a blazing sun, was a field of almost naked naga baba initiates. I was stunned. This was a significant part of the ceremony, and there were no other western people there – I was so very privileged see this. Initiates There were older saddhus walking amongst them, handing things out with the air of school teachers overseeing exams.  

Ganges

Another moment of tranquility on the banks of the Ganges. There was chaos behind me, noisy crowds, dogs, kite flying, cricket playing, and laundry being laid out to dry. And before me – serenity. Ganges The Ganges draws so many people. It is at once personal and shared, private and public.

Kashi

An ancient temple on the banks of the Ganges in Kashi. Just up from the burning Ghats, there is a change of vibe. The ghats get quieter and more spacious. Kashi Home to 87 ghats, and so much more. Hard to explain. Go there.

Burning Ghats

360kg of sandalwood are needed to burn 1 body. 3 hours to burn a body. These stacks of sandalwood await the dead. Burning Ghats It is the greatest honor to be buried here in Varanasi. People from all of India bring their dead for the greatest send-off.

Shilo Shiv Suleman

I experienced my first Maha Kumbh Mela in 2013. After the group I had planned to go with bailed on me, I reached out to our mutual friend in India, and asked to join her. An unusual move for me, but I knew I wanted to go, and that going alone wasn’t an option. Shilo Shiv Suleman How blessed I was. I not only had the pleasure of Shilo‘s company, and her partner Avijit Michael for the journey, but I got to witness and document Shilo painting a mural on the banks of the Ganges as part of her Fearless Project. Epic