Embraced on three sides by two sacred rivers, Allahabad is the home of temples, Sanskrit schools, monasteries, and centers of esoteric science. At the time of the Kumbha Mela, a magnificent city of tents is erected on the flood plains to accommodate the multitude of adepts, seekers, and pilgrims from India and abroad. At dawn, the sky is filled with the power of mantras, prayers, and the group meditation of countless seekers and pilgrims—magic moments you must experience to believe!
As the sky brightens, pilgrims pour from all directions to bathe in the sacred waters. In late afternoon, the sages who have immersed themselves in meditation break their silence to share their wisdom. In the evening, people turn their consciousness inward as they engage in meditation and self-reflection. The Kumbha Mela is a unique phenomenon, one that the city of Allahabad has been experiencing for thousands of years.
Our Campus in Allahabad
The Institute has its own private retreat center overlooking the river Ganga, downriver from the crowds. Our campus, with its beautiful groves and gardens, is removed from the throng, yet still within walking distance of the main Mela site. This 30-acre campus is safe, peaceful, and fully equipped with amenities unavailable anywhere else at the Kumbha Mela. We have our own Western-standard well water; the vegetarian food served comes from local growers; and you will enjoy the serene accommodations of our private, self-contained village of eco-cottages, made of 100 percent natural recyclable materials.
Built for the Maha Kumbha Mela
The Himalayan Institute purchased the campus in order to host over 500 guests from around the world for the Maha Kumbha Mela of 2001. At the time it was purchased, the campus was deserted and barren, so a massive reforestation effort was undertaken to revitalize the land. Today, the land has been transformed into a lush retreat center with abundant vegetation. Trees that were planted as seedlings are now 30 feet high with thick, strong trunks. There are vegetable gardens that feed visitors and staff and beautiful flower gardens to walk through. The new plant growth has encouraged the return of wild animals, including nilgai, jackals, porcupines, iguanas, and a wide variety of birds. The campus is equipped with a large main building for dining and lectures.
The Sacred Grove and Havan Kund
The heart of the Himalayan Institute campus in Allahabad is the Sacred Grove overlooking the Ganga River. The Sacred Grove is a panchavati, a garden consisting of five special types of banyan trees—burgad, pipala, gular, pakada, and bilva—each of which is auspicious for a particular spiritual practice. Many years ago, the trees were planted by Bhole Baba who later became Swami Rama, the founder of the Himalayan Institute. The local villagers still remember stories told by their parents about the tall handsome young yogi who did his sadhana here for almost three years.
During the Kumbha Mela, this Sacred Grove is the center of the Rudra Yaga, a Vedic fire ceremony. The Rudra Yaga is performed early each morning to purify and transform us on the personal and global level.
A Havan Kund, a square fire pit, was dug deep into the earth under the trees, and a yajna shala, a three-tiered thatched roof was built over the havan to shelter it. As the Sacred Grove is considered a temple area, shoes are not allowed and silence is always maintained. People are naturally drawn to sit in the Sacred Grove, where the air is fresh and clear, and the view is always breathtaking. Sunrise and sunset on the Ganga are particularly popular times. Everyone is soothed by the peacefulness and serenity of the Sacred Grove, and walks away feeling renewed in body, mind, and spirit.