Moving from Lucknow to Prayagraj to prepare for the competitive exams was like a step toward achieving my dreams. However, the pressure and homesickness were to be tackled at the same time. Although located almost 10 km from my room, I always still out some time to enjoy the amalgamation of devotion, nature, and peace at Triveni Sangam. What a deep lesson I get from the flowing rivers-there is no hurry. We shall get there someday.
Triveni Sangam- as the name suggests- is a confluence of three important rivers, the Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati. Amongst these three rivers, Saraswati is unseen and is said to flow underground to join the other two rivers from below. When we observe the colour of the water, we can see the Ganges as muddy and pale yellow while the water of Yamuna is a vibrant blue. Sitting along the ghat and watching this confluence brings an unexplained peace to the mind and the soul. During the sunrise and sunset, the views are just breathtaking, reflecting all the yellow and orange shades of the sky in the water. I realized what wonders nature has! This relationship between rivers and human beings, mainly in the Indian context is more than ecology and human attachment since rivers are like goddesses for their sacred water and are therefore given the respect of mother for, they are considered as the life-givers for all civilizations. Triveni-Sangam with its sacredness above human consciousness leads them to connect the ‘self’ with the whole. These three rivers are entanglements of nature and culture. Such entanglement between river and culture in the Indian context shared all-embracing ground in Hinduism for centuries, connecting deep ecological roots to religious experiences.
Rivers being the source of life and beauty are always inspiring be it naturalists or writers. Kalidasa illustrated the confluence of the blue waters of the Yamuna and white waters of the Ganga as if they were a string of pearls and sapphires combined or a garland of blue and white lotuses entwined. The Triveni Sangam is full of life in all the seasons. You can visit it during the festive and non-festive times, during summers or the winters. It has so much for us. Triveni Sangam stays open from Sunday to Saturday. One can visit it on all the weekdays, from early in the morning around 5:00 AM to 7:30 PM in the evening. The Kumbh Mela is one of its kind, a much-awaited festival by devotees, photographers, writers, tourists, and people from various other fields. It is a series of Hindu festivals and rituals celebrated in the month of January and February. There are different forms of Kumbh Mela:
• Maha Kumbh celebrated once in twelve years
• Ardha Kumbh celebrated once in six years
• Magh mela is celebrated yearly
The splendour and unexplained ambiance of this festival for centuries enthrall not only the Indians but also the foreigners. This goes back to the seventh century A.D. when Hiuen Tsang- a Chinese pilgrim- wrote about the mesmerizing view of millions of people gathering at Sangam to take the holy dip to release themselves from all the earthly pains and ties.
The Hindu mythological tales about Kumbh Mela are equally interesting. According to it, Triveni-Sangam is one of the holiest places where one drop of amrit fell from the kumbh or urn after the churning of the ocean by both devas and asuras during the samundra manthan. Kumbh Mela is therefore celebrated to commemorate the divine amalgamation of amrit with the holy water of Ganga. Due to its immense impact, in 2017, UNESCO enlisted it as a representative of “tangible cultural heritage”. It is rightly famous as the King of Confluences or Prayagraj.
The Triveni-Sangam is also important regarding river-based rituals like ‘asthi visarjan’ or immersion of ashes. According to the belief of Hindus, to liberate souls from the cycle of birth and death asthi visarjan in the river of Ganga near Triveni-Sangam is a must. This ritual extends moksha confirming the soul’s everlasting abode in eternity to release all earthly pains as the soul will get merged with the water of the Ganges and thereby, easily can travel to heaven peacefully.
During the Kumbh, I have seen a vast form of sadhus and saints. The Naga sadhus with ash-smeared bodies and matted waist-long hairs are always the centre of attraction. They stay almost naked except for the different forms of garlands. They have their own interesting stories that are often covered by the reporters during the Kumbh Mela.
If I talk about the routine of the activities at sangam, it includes boating from the Qila Ghat and the evening Aarti which are held at Saraswati Ghat and Nehru Ghat, located in close proximity to Triveni Sangam. Besides this, there is the Allahabad Fort, built by the Mughal emperor Akbar at Prayagraj in 1583. The fort is situated on the banks of the Yamuna, near its confluence with the Ganges. It has been given national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India. There are also a number of temples around the Sangam. Shri Lete Hanuman Ji (Bade Hanuman Ji, Bandhwa) Mandir is one of the ancient temples in India which have great sacred beliefs for Lord Hanuman. The uniqueness is the idol of Hanuman Ji in a sleeping position.
Being a bird watcher, the winters are the best time for me to be at the Sangam. The bank mynas, rose-ringed parakeets, egrets, black kites, river lapwings, and river terns can be seen all around the year. The attraction of the Triveni Sangam are the winter migrants and gulls. The flocks of thousands of gulls present a magical view of the Sangam throughout the winter. The locals say that the migration of Siberian gulls visiting the River Yamuna is an ancient tradition. Locally they are called Ram Bihari. The river supports a huge population of gulls and other water birds, making the site mesmerizing. The gulls seem to be trained by someone as they start hovering around the boat that is just about to take the tourists toward the point of confluence. It appears as if they are asking the people to feed them with the sev (snack) that is sold by the local people. This junk food of the gulls is not healthy for them but this has been the trend for years. In addition to the harmful effects of the gulls, this practice adds to the plastic pollution as well due to the packing. After feeding the gulls, the polythene is carelessly thrown in the river. In the wake of time, it has gathered environmental concerns and pollution issues.
To keep the natural beauty of the riverscape, awareness regarding its ecological importance can be combined with the Eco-spiritual realm. Sitting along the ghats watching nature and the ritual-performing people being surrounded by the local people who are focused on their daily earnings, fills my mind with different thoughts of Indian riverine heritage with transcendental power. With a fresh source of inspiration from the rivers that teaches us that in spite of all the curves, it finally reaches the ocean, I return to my room and begin my lessons to accomplish the aim.
(The writer is the district coordinator of a leading biodiversity conservation society, Prayagraj)