Being in it and being of it is a contemporary visual handbook, documenting experiences and conversations from one of the largest faith gatherings on earth, the Kumbh mela of Allahabad in 2013.

Although there exists a large volume of visual as well as literary text, documenting and describing the Kumbh Mela, most of it is either scholarly and inaccessible or personal, at times biased and more often than not, attractive but exotic. The intentional or unintentional omission of context leads to an exoticism which distances the audience from the essence of the content. This leaves a vast number of interested and educable people without a means to an informed yet engaging overview on this culturally, historically and spiritually landmark event. Although difficult to describe within the constraints of language,
an 'Indian' perspective is essential for and imperative to such an undertaking.

Kumbh Mela, the largest human gathering on earth, is recurrently apprehended negatively in India by a large part of the Indian populace. As part of the young, educated and privileged section of Indian society, our own perception of the Kumbh Mela until having witnessed it was that of a pandemonium leading to several stampedes, a hoax gathering of so called ‘religious or spiritual’ saints, only to be read about in newspapers and magazines. The pre-dominantly political agendas which regulate and dominate its very existence leave an unpleasant taste with the majority. There may be a few grains of truth in all that people have been conditioned to think about or view the Kumbh Mela as, but the mountains of purity, spirituality and the very essence of this faith-gathering cannot be repudiated and dismissed.

We wish to capture the essence of the Kumbh Mela, to bridge the rift between the people with faith and those without.

Data of religious and spiritual significance gathered from saints and sages complemented by practical and logistical facts gathered from organisational personnel and academicians, alongside our own ‘outsider’ perspective balanced through an honest and clear rendering of collected anecdotes and experiences of the mela attendees forms this body of work.

This collation is an attempt to create an unbiased, experiential and communicative narrative of faith which seeks to invite people to come and experience the Kumbh for themselves. It provides a comprehensive overview of the Kumbh Mela by distilling valuable information and thoughts gathered from having spent a little over 6 weeks at the Mahakumbh which was held in January and February 2013 at Allahabad.