कुम्भ-मेला : भारत का एक और आयाम

हमारे देश में हमेशा से मुक्ति ही परम लक्ष्य रहा है। हमारे संस्कृति में आंतरिक विज्ञान को जितनी गहराई से समझा गया है, ऐसी समझ पृथ्वी पर किसी दूसरी संस्कृति में नहीं मिलती। यही करण है कि इस देश को हमेशा से ही विश्व की आध्यात्मिक राजधानी के रूप में भी जाना जाता रहा है। देश की जानी-मानी आध्यात्मिक विभूति सद्गुरु जग्गी वासुदेव कुम्भ की घटना का वर्णन करते हैं, जहाँ एक बड़े पैमाने पर साधक एकत्रित होते हैं, जो सचेत रूप से अपने वर्तमान स्तर से परे जाने की लालसा रखते हैं। सद्गुरु विख्यात अमेरिकी लेखक मार्क ट्वेन (Mark Twain :1835-1910) का उल्लेख करते हुए उसके कुम्भ-वर्णन कोसाझा करते हैं और उसे भारत की सबसे अच्छी तारीफों में से एक कहते हैं।

उल्लेखनीय है कि मार्क ट्वेन ने 1894 में प्रयाग कुम्भ-मेले का भ्रमण किया था। उसने अपनी प्रसिद्ध पुस्तक Following the Equator : A journey around the world (1897) के पृष्ठ 469-470 में प्रयाग-कुम्भ का वर्णन किया है। उसने लिखा है कि …. इस मेले में हर साल दो लाख लोग पहुंचते हैं। कितने ही लोग सड़क पर मर जाते हैं, उम्र और थकान और बीमारी और भयावह पोषण से, और कितने लोग वापसी में मर जाते हैं, उसी कारणों से, कोई नहीं जानता; आस्था और विश्वास उन्हें प्रत्येक बारहवें वर्ष यहाँ खींच लाता है। …मैंने देखा किसड़कों पर स्त्री-पुरुष तीर्थयात्रियों के साथ भीड़ थी… पवित्र नदियों—गंगा और यमुना के तट पर…भारत के महान धार्मिक मेलों में से एक यहाँ आयोजित था… ये तीर्थयात्री पूरे भारत से यहाँ आए थे; उनमें से कुछ को रास्ते में महीनों लगे थे, गर्मी और धूल से सने हुए, भूखे, लेकिन उनमें एक अटूट विश्वास था, जिसे कारण वे बहुत खुश और संतुष्ट थे, इसका फल उन्हें मिल चुका था; वे इस पवित्र जल द्वारा पाप और भ्रष्टाचार के हर झंझट से मुक्त होने जा रहे थे…।

Then we struck into the hot plain, and found the roads crowded with pilgrims of both sexes, for one of the great religious fairs of India was being held, just beyond the Fort, at the junction of the sacred rivers, the Ganges and the Jumna. Three sacred rivers, I should have said, for there is a subterranean one. Nobody has seen it, but that doesn’t signify. The fact that it is there is enough. These pilgrims had come from all over India; some of them had been months on the way, plodding patiently along in the heat and dust, worn, poor, hungry, but supported and sustained by an unwavering faith and belief; they were supremely happy and content, now; their full and sufficient reward was at hand; they were going to be cleansed from every vestige of sin and corruption by these holy waters which make utterly pure whatsoever thing they touch, even the dead and rotten. It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites. There are choice great natures among us that could exhibit the equivalent of this prodigious self-sacrifice, but the rest of us know that we should not be equal to anything approaching it. Still, we all talk self-sacrifice, and this makes me hope that we are large enough to honor it in the Hindoo.

Two millions of natives arrive at this fair every year. How many start, and die on the road, from age and fatigue and disease and scanty nourishment, and how many die on the return, from the same causes, no one knows; but the tale is great, one may say enormous. Every twelfth year is held to be a year of peculiar grace; a greatly augmented volume of pilgrims results then. The twelfth year has held this distinction since the remotest times, it is said. It is said also that there is to be but one more twelfth year — for the Ganges. After that, that holiest of all sacred rivers will cease to be holy, and will be abandoned by the pilgrim for many centuries; how many, the wise men have not stated. At the end of that interval it will become holy again. Meantime, the data will be arranged by those people who have charge of all such matters, the great chief Brahmins. It will be like shutting down a mint. At a first glance it looks most unbrahminically uncommercial, but I am not disturbed, being soothed and tranquilized by their reputation. “Brer fox he lay low,” as Uncle Remus says; and at the judicious time he will spring something on the Indian public which will show that he was not financially asleep when he took the Ganges out of the market.

Great numbers of the natives along the roads were bringing away holy water from the rivers. They would carry it far and wide in India and sell it. Tavernier, the French traveler (17th century), notes that Ganges water is often given at weddings, “each guest receiving a cup or two, according to the liberality of the host; sometimes 2,000 or 3,000rupees’ worth of it is consumed at a wedding.”