For years, India has been collectively lusting over the incredible spirit of Burning Man, wishing it visited India soon enough. Now, only if we looked closer home.
Now, more than ever, Burning Man is that radical festival that is continually gaining commercial following. As ironic as it may seem, almost everyone wants to be a part of The Playa’s underground lifestyle. The wild couture, the desert expanse, the hard-to-understand art installations, the infamous orgies, the drug trips, and the festival’s general free-thinking nature is now the new social norm. Out here in India, the number of ‘Bring Burning Man to India’ requests have never been higher. And it got The Sherp thinking.
While our ‘If Burning Man came to India‘ ideation began with us thinking over the ideal location (Rann of Kutch, if you’re curious to know), the amount of creative censorship that will follow (will it even be Burning Man after the rules?), and the ridiculously cool India-inspired outfits that it will bring forth (this, we’re looking forward to), it ended us reasoning perfectly well that India, in fact, does have its own version of a Burning Man, already. Since, the 644 Common Era.
And it is, our very own Kumbh Mela.
Now before you laugh that idea over, or go indignant at the comparison, allow us to explain the similarities.
1. The scenic location
The Burning Man’s desert is the Kumbh Mela’s ganga-ghats.
One of the bigger reasons that Burning Man works is because the Black Rock City, its location in the Nevada dessert is a scenic call for the quintessential traveler, with its unending large space. The area, while arid, is marked by the brown of the land and the blue of the sky, a beautiful paradox.
For the Kumbh Mela, Hardiwar too is one of the most pristine locations in India, with the confluence of the holy waters, marked by stone temples on all its sides. Even if you’re not religious, the cultural poignance of the Kumbh Mela is bound to move you emotionally. In addition to Haridwar, the other Kumbh locations of Nasik, Prayag and Ujjain are as historically significant as each other.
2. The devoted following
A following, the size of a pilgrimage. Ring a bell?
Burning Man loyalists turn in year after year for that spectacular experience spanning several days. They will defend their Burning Man journey with examples of the profundity of their Burning Man adventure. They will also cater to Burning Man’s central themes, and cite examples of all the moments they felt a oneness with their own self. They also walk around in groups.
Kumbh Mela loyalists turn in year after year for that spectacular experience spanning several days. They will defend theirKumbh Mela journey with examples of the profundity of theirKumbh Mela adventure. They will also cater toKumbh Mela’s central themes, and cite examples of all the moments they felt a oneness with their own self. They also walk around in groups.
Notice the similarity?
3. The search for spirituality
Burning Man promises to be an experience beyond just the dressing up and the art. Many swear it to be a spiritual journey with several temples located in the festival premises where large scale meditative practises are organised. The idea is to appreciate the beauty of life, and revere it with sincerity.
Do we have to enunciate exactly why the Kumbh Mela is a spiritual experience. While thousands of devotees flock to participate in the religious ceremonies, many loyalists insist that the Kumbh is the awakening of one’s central self more than anything. It is India’s one of many stops to spirituality.
4. The naked people
We’re going to let images do the talking –
Burning Man –
Burning Man is infamous for the legendary LSD usage that is rampant throughout the festival. Many believe that acid is sacrosanct to completely appreciating the festival’s radical lifestyle. The drugs are free-flowing, and people are extremely generous with partaking with their share.
That India has historical and cultural significance with opium and marijuana, is well known and documented. While marijuana consumption is otherwise illegal and frowned upon, the sadhus at Kumbh Mela consume it in various forms of hashish, and bhang, and smoke it with carefree abandon. The association of religion helps it go scot-free.
6. Fashion incarnate
Burning Man fashion, or its outlandish nature is an absolute rage. Many people don their funkiest outfits, which scream the festival’s radical theme in style. Burlesque outfits, birthday suits, rags passed off as hippie-garb, anything works.
While fashion would be a shallow way to describe the Kumbh Mela garb, the accessories and the saffron clothes have gone on to be inculcated into independent Indian fashion. The garments championed at Kumbh Mela scream ‘India’ in its most earthy-est form.
7. Cultural significance
Burning Man and the Kumbh Mela both have a deeply impacting cultural significance that cannot be ignored.
While Burning Man, a festival for those on the fringes of commercial culture is now slowly gaining popularity, its beliefs, ideals and practices are slowly being assimilated into popular culture. Not only is the art celebrated, but unlike most underground festivals, the amount of hype over Burning Man has made it a significant cultural spectacle.
The Kumbh Mela is one of the most important gatherings in the annual Hindu calendar. Apart from that, because it is a festival of such reputation, people from all over the world come to witness its cultural spectacle. It draws in not only devotees but also students of cultures and those seeking spiritual awakening, making it one of India’s most important events.
P. S. This was a satire, meant for pure amusing purposes, with a little dash of reality, if we must admit. We hope everyone takes in the right spirit. Subsequently, we also think that while calling for Burning Man to India is completely justified, maybe we looked inwards and appreciated our own cultural gatherings a bit more.