By Sandra Anderson
My plans for a Ganga puja were abruptly curtailed this morning when I spotted the English version of the Times of India headed toward the office in the hands of one our staff. The prospect of local Kumbha Mela news, and the delightful perspective of Indian papers in general was too good to pass up. Where else are you going to find a headshot of J-Lo claiming “difficult personal experiences have made her a better actress” on the top of one page and a quote from the Chandogya Upanishad on the bottom of the next?
American and Bollywood stars often peep over the title bar of Times of India pages, attached to a one-liner caption that may or may not be related to their photo. Perhaps the intention is to entice the reader to read on, the news as usual not as upbeat as J-Lo: “Egypt army fears state collapse amid crisis” and “Smog hazard worsens in China” and “Plane crash due to fog kills 22 in Kazakhstan.”
In addition to a quote from the Chandogya Upanishad, today’s editorial page includes this message from Swami Sivananda, “Eradicate self-justification. Then alone can you annihilate your ego.”
And this one from Eckhart Tolle, “The ego isn’t wrong; it’s just unconscious. When you observe the ego in yourself, you are beginning to go beyond it. Don’t take the ego too seriously.”
I am most happy to take this in alongside the news of the conflict in Mali, local political bickering, and of course the inevitable sports pages which are full of hockey and cricket; star athletes being the heroes of the country.
The news of the Kumbha Mela is this: three crore (30 million) are expected to “take a holy bath at the Sangam” on February 10. Hard to even imagine! But the roar of thousands of voices rises stronger every evening, so who knows whether three crorce is an exaggeration.
The other news of interest is from the Juna Akhara which we visited a couple of days ago. Swami Avadeshananda has initiated around 1,000 aspirants into Nagahood. The Nagas are of continual interest here at the Mela due to their extreme lifestyle. They shave their heads, renounce clothing except for the langot (loin cloth), and “shun worldly pleasure and luxuries.” The Times goes on, “anointed as Digambar (the sky be their attire) saints, the Nagas take a vow to worship Lord Dattatreya…the presiding deity of Juna Akhara.”