Voices In The Book

Thoughts gathered from conversations with people at the Kumbh mela while they experienced it in real time form the narratives (voices) that drive the content within the books. A brief introduction of these individuals gives a sense of the varied backgrounds they hail from.

  • andrew turner

    Andrew Turner is as much at home in the bustling Kumbh as he is in an avocado and blueberry farm, tucked away in a scenic village of New South Wales, Australia. Comboyne is home to Andrew’s family of six and his initiative called Sustainable Timber Frames. His life decisions reflect his tendency to take the road less travelled, hoping to encounter deep and diverse experiences and enjoy the ride while getting there.

  • Ane Pitanie

    Ane Pitanie has studied Tibetan Buddhism from the age of 15. She stumbled onto the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda through a book given by her friend, followed by a meeting with Swami Shankarananda Giri (a master of the form) in Southern France. The moment she met him felt so right as if she had known him forever and she has been his disciple ever since. And even though she has met a guide who will chalk out the path, the path is hers to walk on.

  • Ashutosh Kumar Dwivedi

    Ashutosh Kumar Dwivedi is the Additional Mela Officer, Sub-Mela Adhikari of the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. He has undertaken the administration of the Mela, a large-scale, complex event with full faith in the workings of God that guide him through it all.

  • Bansri Baba

    Bansri Baba is destiny's child. At the young age of 12, his fate led him from his hometown in Haryana to Allahabad where he met his Guru, a saint who had taken a vow of eternal silence. Since then Bansri Baba has visited all the Kumbh Melas in Allahabad, Nashik, Ujjain and Haridwar, including two Maha Kumbhs. After Mauni Baba’s death, Bansri Baba is following his Guru’s teachings, but the absence of his only link to God has left him incomplete.

  • digambar darshan guru

    Digambar Darshan Guru started out as a man belonging to the mortal world. His decision to cross over to a life governed by the virtues of a religious cult was initially questioned by his Guru too. But his determination to embark on the path to moksha, led to him being inducted into the Niranjani Akhada as a
    naga sadhu.

  • Dr. Ajit Jadhav

    The Red Swastik Society is an NGO that provides free medical treatment to the pilgrims, saints and naga babas at the Kumbh. Dr. Ajit Jadhav is a Director in its Maharashtra branch. He and his team tirelessly attend to medical emergencies with the aid of the Civil Hospital and other nameless doctors and donors who contribute services, medicines and money for carrying out God’s own work.

  • Kalyandasji Maharaj

    Kalyandasji Maharaj is the founder of the Kalyan Seva Ashram Trust in Amarkantak, chhattisgarh. His first visit to the Kumbh was in 1954, at age 12. His Guru, the late Swaroop Dasji Maharaj initiated him into the Udaseen sect. He has also circumambulated the river Narmada as part of his goal for spiritual attainment.

  • Kapilanand Brahmachariji

    Kapilanand Brahmachariji, a spiritually inclined young man, is visiting the Kumbh for the very first time on the behest of his Guru, Kalyandasji Maharaj. A commerce graduate from Pune, Kapilanandji is in charge of managing an ashram started by his Guru. His experience of the Kumbh leads him to embrace the power of the collective.

  • Kavindra Pratap Singh

    Kavindra Pratap Singh is the Head of Security at the Kumbh Mela. He, along with his team of police personnel, have the tough task of maintaining peace and order at the Kumbh, which is no mean feat, given the diversity and scale of the Mela, and its attendees.

  • Kibbnesh Wolde Gabriel

    Kibbnesh Wolde Gabriel holds the position of Chief Administrator of Finance at the United Nations African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP) in Senegal. Born a Christian she was introduced to Kriya Yoga in 2003 when she happened to meet Swami Shankarananda Giri on his visit to Africa for the very first time. Kriya Yoga is a big part of her
    life now.

  • Maaji

    Maaji is a 60-year-old determined kalpavasi woman who is at the Kumbh despite having undergone a medical procedure recently. She was initiated into kalpavas 13 years ago and looks forward to meeting her Ganga Maa each year, till her will power permits.

  • Mahant Maheshwardasji

    Mahant Maheshwardasji is one of the four Mahants who head the Panchayati Akhada Bada Udaseen. He was inspired to take up the calling of seva by his childhood experiences in the Harihar Ashram in Delhi. It was here that he witnessed the tradition of worship and service undertaken by sadhus.

  • Mathieu Boisvert

    Mathieu Boisvert is a Professor in the Department of Humanities at the University of Quebec in Montreal with a PhD in Anthropology. He has
    been visiting India for the past 30 years, at times with his students and sometimes with different members of his family. In this trip to the Kumbh, he was accompanied by his son, and the two took up residence at the Durga Shivir, a kalpavasi camp.

  • Mathura Prasad Dubey

    Mathura Prasad Dubey travels with his Guru, Daddaji, wherever he goes and applies chandan on the foreheads of devotees in attendance.

  • Matthadhishwer M. Narsinghramji

    Matthadhishwer Mahamandaleshwar Narsinghramji is the Acharya Mahamandaleshwar of the Agni Akhada, in the pilgrim town of Amarkantak, chhattisgarh. He met his Guru in 1967, then a Shankaracharya in the making and now the Head of Dwarka Peeth, Shankaracharya Swami Swarupanandji. To him the Kumbh is instrumental in bringing together diverse people and cultures and is a paradigm of the maxim ‘Unity in Diversity’.

  • Mauni Baba

    Mauni Baba is a sadhu from Punjab. Named after the vow of complete silence that he has kept for the past 30 years, he communicates with his disciples through writing. He runs goshalas to protect and care for cattle. Besides this, his aim is to serve various holy men. He has pursued his calling without any institutional or political affiliation.

  • Michael O'Neill

    Michael O’Neill is a noted photographer, from New York. His work has appeared recurringly in the pages of the New York Times Magazine, Life, Rolling Stone, Esquire, the New Yorker, Time and Vanity
    Fair, to name a few. He was visiting the Kumbh for work and to meet some of the saints who are also his friends. Michael opened
    the door to his mind and
    let us in.

  • Muni Baba

    Muni Baba is a renouncer of
    earthly pleasures. Sanyasis tend to explore underlying philosophies as opposed
    to conforming to predetermined rituals. Following that thought,
    Muni Baba suggests that people traverse through the Kumbh in pursuit of the indiscernible.

  • Nirbhayadas Kothariji

    Nirbhayadas Kothariji is a member and the treasurer of the Bada Udaseen Akhada

  • Pandit Krishnanandji

    Pandit Krishnanandji, a descendant of the largest surviving family in the Gaur community is a septuagenarian priest, following the path of his fathers and forefathers. The famed Durga Shivir camp that helps house numerous Kalpavasis during the Mela, is organized by his family.

  • Pramil Chaturvedi

    Pramil Chaturvedi is an astrologer who holds BTech, PG(PS) degrees. He conducted a camp to ascertain the reason behind the problems and sufferings of the people at the Kumbh by using the three-pillar concept in astrology – tantra, mantra, yantra. This camp was open to all, free
    of cost.

  • Professor D.P. Dubey

    Professor D.P. Dubey teaches Ancient History at the University of Allahabad. He took up the study of the Kumbh Mela and other facets of Hinduism way back in 1980 and is also part of the Society of Pilgrimage Studies. His in-depth knowledge of the Puranas brings forth an age-old insight to the purity of the waters flowing in the Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati and Narmada.

  • Professor Hari Dutt Sharma

    Professor Hari Dutt Sharma is a Senior Reader and Head of the Sanskrit Department at the University of Allahabad. Also an acclaimed Sanskrit poet, he won the Sahitya Akademi Award for Sanskrit in 2007 for his poetic work Lasallatika. He also taught Sanskrit at the Silpakorn University in Thailand for three years.
    His literary background is evident from his poetic description of the Ganga
    and the significance of the holy dip.

  • Professor Vijoy Shankar Sahay

    Professor Vijoy Shankar Sahay is the Head of Anthropology at the University of Allahabad. He holds a PhD and the focus of his studies has been on isolated tribal groups. He has penned several articles and books on the Andamanese tribes. His pursuits at the Kumbh are solely of an academic and abstract nature and yet he is able
    to unravel the secret
    to moksha.

  • Ramdas

    Ramdas travelled with around 150 pilgrims – men, women and children, from Patiala to the Kumbh. They arrived by truck with food supplies to cookand serve at the Kumbh Mela.

  • Ramesh Srivastava

    Ramesh Srivastava is the Additional Director in the Health and Sanitation department of the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. He hopes and plans for a healthy and hygienic Mela, with reduced dependency on manpower.

  • Raja Baba

    Raja Baba, also a naga baba is a disciple of Kalyandasji Maharaj. To him the Kumbh Mela is an assembly of the scholarly and saintly, coming together to provide a sense of direction to society. His Guru is his moral compass, without whom he would be completely lost.

  • Rajaram Tiwari

    Rajaram Tiwari holds the rank of Superintendent of the Bharat Seva Dal, a not-for-profit, self-funded organization, started way back in 1946. Committed to the cause of seva, the organization provides aid and support to the lost.

  • Rajesh Dutt

    Rajesh Dutt is a pandit, who reads from one of the 108 Puranas written in Sanskrit, for those interested in listening and learning from the sacred text at the shivling camp.

  • Ram Sevak Dubey

    Ram Sevak Dubey is a devotee and volunteer at the shivling camp. He in charge of counting the lumps of clay to be transformed into shivlings.

  • Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji

    Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji followed her calling when she relocated from Hollywood, California to Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh in 1996. A graduate of Stanford University, with a PhD in Psychology, she now leads a life of service, under the tutelage of Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji. Sadhvi Bhagawati is the President of the Divine Shakti Foundation and also assists in programs run by the India Heritage Research Foundation. Counselling, teaching meditation and leading forums that discuss Indian spirituality are some of the activities that fill her life now.

  • Sadhvi Narayan Kantaji

    Sadhvi Narayan Kantaji heads the Manas Mandir Seva Sanstha. The primary focus of this institute is to serve people, especially the destitute and the orphaned. Hailing from Madhya Pradesh, Sadhvi Narayan Kantaji moved base to Prayag, forfeiting her life as a householder in order to pursue an altruistic service.

  • Sant Avmuktanandji

    Sant Avmuktanandji was a godsend for his parents who longed for a son. His calling preceded him. Sanyas was the prelude to his existence and went onto become his life as he knew it. Fate led him to a momentous meeting with Bajrangdasji Maharaj, who is now his Guru and the half that completes him.

  • Sant Narayan Puriji

    Sant Narayan Puriji, an ascetic himself, has been a disciple of Mauni Baba for 24 years. He believes in the sadhus’ inner strength and the power of silence. He lives, travels and works with Baba in caring for cattle across the North Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.

  • Shanky Saigal

    Shanky Saigal is a young devotee in Daddaji’s camp. He participates and oversees the making
    of shivlings.

  • Sheil Kumari Mishra

    Sheil Kumari Mishra is a kalpavasi, 2013 being her fourth year of kalpavas. This act of separation from her family, towards whom her duties are done, is an act for the self which she joyously commits to in return for some quietude infused with chants of Ram.

  • Shiv Bandhu

    Shiv Bandhu was the local boatman assigned to Andrew Turner by the Boat Club. Having him on board was a stipulation of the licence granted by the organization. Shiv Bandhu is a staunch believer of the compassionate yet placid waters of the Sangam, the very ones in which the oars of the boat submerge
    and surface.

  • Shri Ram Nayak

    Shri Ram Nayak is a devotee and volunteer at the shivling camp. He is responsible for conducting the abhishek of the shivlings, once made.

  • Sir Mark Tully

    Sir Mark Tully holds many titles. Currently an author and journalist, he worked at BBC for 30 years, during which he held the position of Chief of Bureau, BBC, New Delhi for 20 years. His writings reflect a unique understanding of India and its workings, and reveal his appreciation of the great mythical and spiritual tradition of India.

  • Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

    Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is synonymous with the Art of Living movement. A humanitarian leader, a spiritual teacher, and an ambassador of peace, Sri Sri founded The Art of Living Foundation known for its educational and self-development programs. These programs have transformed the lives of millions through breathing techniques, meditation and yoga. A child prodigy with degrees in Vedic literature and physics and a true visionary, Sri Sri has enabled the revival of ancient wisdom through new techniques for personal and social transformation that help in aligning the mind to all things good.

  • Sukhdarshan Singhji

    Sukhdarshan Singhji used to be a truck driver before he met Mauni Baba. Having given up his home and livelihood, he has travelled with Baba for the past
    five years.

  • Swami Vishweshwaranand Giriji Maharaj

    Shri Annapurna Pitthadhishwar Mahamandaleshwar 1008 Shri Swami Vishweshwaranand Giriji Maharaj took up the post of Mahamandaleshwar after the demise of his guru in February 1990. He is associated with the Juna Akhada and has been serving at Shri Annapurna ashram in Indore since 1975. He believes that the union of the mind and body, while taking a dip in the Ganga is the only way to ensure that the conscience is thoroughly cleansed of all the misdeeds.

  • Swami Bhagwatanandji Maharaj

    Swami Bhagwatanandji Maharaj of the Shri Gangdev Virakt Mandali Sadhu Seva Trust is a staunch believer in sadhana and tapasya. His life has mirrored these beliefs ever since he was an impressionable teenager. Walking through jungles and undertaking yatras on foot are reflective of his unflinching faith and surrender to the One who has always protected him.

  • Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji

    Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji spearheads an organization called the Ganga Action Parivar and the Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh. Even though he is the quintessential guru, his clean Ganga campaign and celebrity Ganga aartis set him apart. Like the Sangam, he envisions a life and time of oneness, a union of minds and methods.

  • Swami Hansdevacharyaji Maharaj

    Swami Hansdevacharyaji Maharaj belongs to the Swami Jagannath Dham Trust. He has visited 3 Kumbhs in Haridwar, 2 in Ujjain, 1 in Nashik and 5 in Allahabad, Prayag including the one in 2013. He finds enlightenment and knowledge at the Kumbh, with the Ganga and Yamuna in clear sight and Saraswati in the form of a divine voice.

  • Swami Nikhilatmanandji

    Swami Nikhilatmanandji is a devout proponent of the Ramakrishna Mission and is part of the Puri sect. He was with the mission in Nagpur and Raipur, followed by a long stint in Allahabad which started in 1990 and continues till date. The essence of the Ramakrishna Mission movement has seeped into his very being as he intricately weaves the connect between service, sainthood and salvation.

  • Swami Punyanand Giriji Maharaj

    Swami Punyanand Giriji Maharaj is the Acharya Mahamandaleshwar of the Niranjani Akhada. He looks after the much visited Shri Sanyas Ashram, a temple situated on the banks of the river Yamuna and is a valued mentor to many sanyasis and students. A man of few words, his thoughts and views are direct and yet transcend their
    conspicuous meaning.

  • Swami Swatmanandji

    Swami Swatmanandji is the Mumbai President of the Chinmaya Mission. This Mission is represented at the Kumbh Mela by swamis who hold camps to spread knowledge on the Vedas through sessions & satsangs. Swami Swatmanandji has never been to the Mela but metaphorically describes it as a spiritual congress, where people go to surrender their ‘I’.

  • Zacharie

    Zacharie, a student of political science at the University of Massachusetts, accompanied his father, Mathieu Boisvert, to the Kumbh for the very first time. His young yet perceptive mind makes some astute observations, while he openly embraces and lives the experience of the Mela.