A story of faith and friendship at the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj (formerly called Allahabad). To Manorama and Girija the festival is like the “happiest old-age home in the world.” Reported by Vikas Pandey, published on BBC on March 15, 2019.

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The Kumbh Mela is special to millions of Hindus because they believe bathing in the rivers will cleanse them of their sins and help them attain “moksha”, setting them free from the cycle of birth and death. Sadhus – or ascetics – often draw the most attention at the festival.

A silent community of elderly people, known as Kalpawasis, live on the banks of the rivers Ganges and Yamunafor a full month, hoping to find salvation and spiritual fulfilment.

For these elderly pilgrims, the festival has taken on a meaning that transcends even its spirituality. It has become a place where they can meet people of their age and form life-long friendships. Some even call it the place where they “find family.”

Manorama Mishra (72) and Girija Devi (68) are from two villages in northern India. Both lead lonely lives – Ms Devi can go days without talking to anyone while Ms Mishra’s life is an endless wait for a visit from one of her children. Their lives take a happy turn, even if only for a month, when they arrive at the Kumbh Mela and find each other.

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Featured image: Copyright Ankit Srinivas

Production:
Direction, script, production: Vikas Pandey
Executive Producers: Zillah Watson, Angus Foster
BBC VR Hub producer: Niall Hill
Assistant Producer: Sunil Kataria
Hyper Reality Studios:
Director of Photography: Vijaya Choudhary
Editing and sound design: Chintan Kalra
Creative Director: Amarjyot Baidwan
Field Production: Ankit Srinivas, Vivek Singh Yadav
Special thanks to:
The government of Uttar Pradesh
Rahul Srivastav – Additional Superintendent of Police
The Kumbh Mela Administration

Excerpted from Kumbh Mela: Finding your soulmate in the world’s biggest crowd

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