Laura Spinney

Kumbh Mela 2013: The Water’s Dirty but Nobody’s Sick

The latest figures on water quality in the Ganges, straight from the Central Pollution Control Board—a government organisation charged with monitoring it daily during the Kumbh Mela—suggest that contrary to earlier reports, it’s neither drinkable nor batheable. ...

Kumbh Mela 2013: Where Have All The Cobras Gone?

There are elephants at the Kumbh Mela, but no snake charmers, and yet both used to be staples of festivals and fairs in India. So where are the snake charmers? Sulking in Kapari and Lohagra, two villages about an hour’...

Kumbh Mela 2013: Picking Flowers

Allahabad is a city of 1.2 million people, and despite the proximity of its bigger, noisier neighbour, the Kumbh Mela, life goes on there—including death. The funeral ghats on the Ganges were moved away from the sangam—the confluence of ...

Kumbh Mela 2013: Form an Orderly Queue

It’s 4am on January 27, an auspicious date for bathing called Paush Purnima. The full moon hangs big and sharp above the shroud of smoke that covers the Kumbh. It’s still dark, and people are moving quietly and calmly ...

Kumbh Mela 2013: Lost and Found

There is a stubborn rumour here at the Kumbh Mela that some people come to abandon elderly female relatives and children in the crowd. There are two lost and found camps on site, one of which is run by 86-year-old ...

Kumbh Mela 2013: Holy Men

Naga Baba Jai Giri Ji has long, long hair. He hasn’t cut it for 15 years, and when he dances in the processions that the holy men lead to the sangam on bathing days, he loops it over his arms ...

Kumbh Mela 2013: Bathing in the Ganges

If you climb up to high ground above the river plain, you begin to get a sense of the scale of the Kumbh Mela, especially at night. It stretches off in all directions. The sky above it is as light ...