In this 2019 Prayagraj Kumbh Mela travel guide, I have discussed all you may want to know in detial. From when is the best time to visit Kumbh Mela to how to go there to the itinerary to follow.
Note: Though the article talks about my 2019 Prayagraj experience, if you’re visiting the current Kumbh Mela, you can read the article and take useful tips to plan your trip better.
I have, moreover, updated the article in June 2020 to make it more relevant.
Now, let’s read ahead…
In 2019, the Ardh Kumbh Mela took place in the historic city of Prayagraj (earlier known as Allahabad). And on the very first day of the event, nearly 1.5 crore pilgrims ended up in the city, wanting to take a dip in the sacred waters of the Saraswati River.
But the question is, in a city of 1.2 Lakh people, if over 1.5 crore visitors end up in a day (more than what Char Dham Yatra temples of Badrinath Kedarnath get) what are the chances of getting a good experience? Is it easy to travel to Kumbh Mela? Being the world’s biggest gathering, isn’t it too crowded to see and experience anything? How is the first-day experience of Kumb Mela? Well, let’s find out.
I visited the 2019 Prayagraj Kumbh Mela on the first day and stayed there for a couple of nights, in the tent-city, close to Triveni Ghat.
Honestly speaking, I didn’t initially like it as I am not a big fan of visiting crowded places. To me, it did not only feel overwhelmingly overcrowded but also lacking the infrastructure in catering to the needs of tourists. Public toilets were overflowing, roads were jammed, and most places were overcharging. I could feel more confusion and filth around me than spirituality and religion – thanks to all the things I hate about travelling in India that I found there.
Though it is possible that the daily inflow of tourists may decrease in the coming days, as the first day marked the auspicious Makar Sankranti and one of the three ‘shahi snans‘ for this year’s Kumbh Mela, even if it did, I wonder what comfort it will bring to the visitors.
With each passing day, the condition of the budget accommodation in Kumbh Mela and of public toilets will keep decreasing too.
So before I go ahead with my Kumbh Mela Travel Guide, let’s ask us the most important question…
2019 Prayagraj Kumbh Mela
Was it worth visiting? Personally speaking, it was okay.
For you, however, if you’re truly religious and believe that a dip in the Sangam will make a difference in your spiritual life, Kumbh Mela is worth visiting.
But if you are visiting with the idea of holidaying or experimenting spirituality in India, you may just end up complaining more about the place than actually exploring it and enjoying its good tidings. In this case, Kumbh Mela is not worth visiting.
Again… if you happen to be the average middle class Indian, who cannot afford a 10,000 Rupee glamping night yet expects a clean and comfortable cheap accommodation in India; who enjoys exploring the unsung valleys of the Himalayas than the crowded Indian towns; and for whom the complexities of the ancient Hindu religion is just as unimportant and unexciting as the long-forgotten caste system, then forget Kumbh Mela.
To make the decision easier furthermore, let’s talk about the different accommodation options that 2019 Prayagraj Kumbh Mela offered.
Please note that this accommodation will be different when you will visit, however, it will give a good idea of what to experience there. Using this guide, you can plan accordingly.
Where To Stay In Kumbh Mela
From my 2019 Prayagraj experience, I can tell you that each Kumbh Mela has a mix of luxury and budget accommodation. You can choose as per your pocket size. Now, let’s get an idea from my 2019 Prayagraj visit…
Luxury Accommodation in Kumbh Mela
If you decided to go for something luxurious, be known that a two-days/one-night package of the luxury tents is priced around 12,000 Rupees per person, with something more superior costing a whopping 20,000 Rupees per person on a twin-sharing basis.
A six-days/ five-nights package in the super-luxury tent can cost over 1 lakh Rupees per person (more than what you find at Rann Utsav in Kutch, Gujarat or any luxury camp charging in Ladakh).
But yea, such an arrangement will offer everything you may need for a comfortable stay.
Budget Accommodation in Kumbh Mela
If you’re looking for something on the lower end of the spectrum, you can choose a guesthouse for nearly 3000 Rupees per night. The room will be very basic but have a private toilet. But unlike tents, most of the guesthouses, are located near the train station only, which is nearly 10 km (or a 300Rs auto rikshaw ride) away from Triveni Sangam.
If you want to stay close to Triveni and in a budget tent accommodation, you can get a bed in a 10-bed dormitory for nearly 1000 Rupees per night per person. And at such a price, comes the not-so-clean bedsheets and the not-so-clean (with no running water of course) shared toilets. Here’s the phone number for Suraj Mishra, one of the people I met during my visit to Kumbh Mela who owns a budget tent accommodation and can help your budget travel in Kutch. He may even arrange for something else. Number: 91-9839226134.
So now that you’ve decided what to do, and before I proceed with other information to help you make the most of your 2019 Prayagraj Kumbh Mela visit, let’s understand…
The Significance of Kumbh Mela
Let’s go back in the time of Gods and Demons, before mankind existed, and look into the story of ‘Samundra Manthan’. This story will help you understand why Kumbh Mela happens in the first place.
A long long time ago, the Devas (or the demi-Gods) had a fight against the Asuras (or the demons) to take possession of the Amrita (the drink of immortality). During the fight, Lord Vishnu dropped the drops of Amrita at four places, namely Allahabad, Haridwar, Nasik, and Ujjain.
As Amrita fell, the land at the said four places became divine and blessed with the rivers at each of these places becoming blessed, and it came to a belief that a dip in these holy rivers would rid people of all their sins and help them attain moksha.
Since then, sadhus and the general public have been gathering there to take a dip around the auspicious dates starting Makar Sakaranti of each year. The gathering is so ancient that the exact date of its origin is unknown.
Maha Kumbh is celebrated every 12 years in rotation at Prayagraj (the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati rivers) Haridwar (Ganga river) Ujjain (Shipra river) and Nashik (Godavari river).
Ardh kumbh is held every six years at only two places, either Prayagraj or Haridwar.
Kumbh Mela 2019 Prayagraj is the Ardh Kumbh. It kicked off on 15th January 2019 and will conclude on 4th March 2019. A whopping 150 million devotees are expected to become a part of this splendid fair.
When To Visit The 2019 Prayagraj Kumbh Mela?
There are five key dates for the Prayagraj Ardh Kumbh:
- Makar Sankranti on 15 January (shahi snan)
- Paush Purnima on 21 January
- Mauni Amavasya on 04 February (shahi snan)
- Basant Panchami on 10 February (shahi snan)
- Maghi Purnima on 19 February
- Mahashivratri on 04 March
And sharing my two cents from whatever little I know, you must visit the Kumbh on one of the shahi snan days. I visited the Kumbh on Makar Sakaranti shahi snan and it was an experience to not miss, should you decided to visit the Kumbh Mela. From naked Naga babas riding horses, to others smeared in ash, every sight was a colourful mix of people and events.
For photographers, shahi snan is a perfect opportunity as Naga babas come out in full force.
The shahi snan moreover mark for a very auspicious day for bathing in the Saraswati during the time of Kumbh.
Check out these Pictures of Kumbh Mela Naga Baba to find out what it’s like to be visiting it on a shahi snan day.
So yea, if I were to suggest anything, I will suggest visiting the Kumbh Mela during one of the days of shahi snan. But do not end up in the city on the day of the shahi snan, as the ceremony takes place as early as 4 in the morning. And if you did so, you will find it literally impossible to get public transport and be left with no option but walking some 10km from the train station to Triveni Sangam. Be in Prayagraj a day in advance.
My 2-Day 2019 Prayagraj Kumbh Mela Itinerary
Where most people arrive in the morning and leave on the same day in the evening, I suggest staying for at least one night to be able to visit the Akhadas and interact with Naga Sadhus (even if you’re not visiting on the day of shahi snan). This Kumbh Mela travel itinerary includes activities beyond just taking a dip in sangam and leaving.
- Arrive in Prayagraj in the morning and find a place to stay.
- The tent city is located at around 7km from the Allahabad train station, after crossing Shastri Bridge. To get there, you can either take an autorickshaw or a free shuttle bus. Find a place to stay and dump all heavy and expensive stuff there.
- Walk to the main ghat and see where all you will get access on the main day. Just walk around the Triveni Sangam area.
- Around sunset, a boat ride in the Sangam is a great thing to do. If you have time, you can also visit the famous Allahabad Fort.
- Take pictures, plan and more importantly soak in the space.
You can know more about Kumbh Mela on the official government website.
- Wake up around 3 in the morning and leave for Triveni Ghat to attend the ceremonies. It is good if you have figured out the path of the procession the previous day. If not, just follow the crowd and you should be okay.
- It’s a huge area and it’s good to go early and know all about it – also figure out the path of the procession.
- If you also want to take a holy dip, leave your belongings behind or with a friend. There are going to be hundreds and thousands of people crammed in a very small area. Pushing and pulling are going to be very rampant.
- The entire shahi snan ceremony will finish at around 10 am, with langar being served after the shahi snan. It is totally okay to click pictures of Naga babas or of anyone else.
- If possible visit the tents where the sadhus live and interact with them.
Useful Tips From 2019 Prayagraj Kumbh Mela
Interact With Sadhus
The best way to experience and enjoy the Kumbh Mela is by interacting with sadhus.
So just go with the flow, and try to interact with others. Visit an Akhada, get yourself clicked with Naga babas, and indulge in a conversation.
As per my experience, pretty much every sadhu or a member of the general public visit Kumbh Mela with a good mood and consider it an auspicious occasion.
Day time in Prayagraj can be quite sunny and warm. So carry your essentials like a sun cap and a bottle of water, other than a light jacket too if you’re planning to continue your stroll after sunset. Nighttime in Prayagraj sees a sudden dip in temperature.
If you’re staying in a budget tent accommodation, make sure you carry sanitizer. Taking a private bath won’t be possible and your only option will be taking a dip in the Sangam, so be prepared for it. The toilets may look filthy and since there’s no running water in public toilets provided by the government, cleaning yourself can be a problem. So plan for Kumbh Mela accordingly!
Take A Dip In the Sangam
I know the water at the Sangam will look dirty, I will still suggest getting in and taking a dip. I did and it was a great experience.
Get Lost In The Tent City
The tent city in Kumbh Mela is full of small bylanes with something happening at every corner. Visit a satsang, attend spiritual talks and be a part of local games. Just don’t stay in your room or the tent, wander around. Get lost on purpose.
For Women Travellers
As a woman, be careful about what you wear. Always cover your shoulders and knees. Do not go into the Naga baba akharas, unless you take permission from them in advance. These men are celibates and the distraction of women is forbidden. Follow general practices as often advised while visiting a temple in India, whether it is a temple of a female goddess like Kamakhya temple or something else.
If you are looking for more tips, this article by BBC on how to plan for Kumbh Mela is also worth reading. With all the facts and figures, they have made a detailed analysis of how crazy it may be to attend this festival.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Kumbh Mela
If you can handle a bit of crowd, the first day is always the best day to visit Kumbh Mela. This is when Aghoris from across India come. They stay for a few days and leave.
Speaking from photographers and experientialist travellers, the first day is always the best day to visit Kumbh Mela.
Also, since most facilities are temporary (like toilets) they get dirty in a few days.
You will see a lot more action on Day 1 than on any other day. Some people also say that the last day is quite an action-packed, but as far as I know, there is no comparison to how things are on Day 1.
Again, if you are wondering when is the best time to visit Kumbh Mela, hands down, it’s day 1.
How To Go To Kumbh Mela
It takes place in one of the four towns, namely Haridwar, Nashik, Prayagraj and Ujjain. If it’s happening in Prayagraj and Nashik, the best way to travel to Kumbh Mela is on a flight. If, however, it’s happening in Haridwar or Ujjain, travel on a train, as neither of the two towns has an airport.
The problem with taking a train is, however, they are always fully-loaded. In most cases, finding an allotted seat in a train becomes impossible. Though the government runs special trains for the Kumbh Mela, the number of people who travel are always more.
Having said that, the best way, if possible is on a flight, then on a train. If the city it’s happening to is under 500km, you can travel on a bus or even drive.
Have you been to Kumbh Mela? How was your experience?