Experience the greatest and largest festival in the world through a different lens.
The Kumbh Mela is a spiritual experience that is unparalleled in its sheer magnanimity. While shooting his film World’s Biggest Festival: Kumbh Mela, director Diego Buñuel asked the question, ‘How is it possible for a million people to gather at a place for religion?’.
But as one undertakes the experience that is the Kumbh, we realise it is so much more than religion. It’s about faith, love and the basics of humanity. We compiled a list of film-makers (and their films) who took this journey and lived to tell the fantastic tale. Check out the best documentaries made on the majestic Maha Kumbh Mela.
1. Short Cut To Nirvana, 2004.
Shortcut to Nirvana is one of the first documentaries that reached out behind the grandeur of the Mela to tell some of its untold stories. The movie is directed by Nick Day and Mario Benazzo, both filmmakers based in the USA. It was a documentation of the 2001 Maha Kumbh Mela that took place in Allahabad. The plot was very simple, and showed the Kumbh through the eyes of four travellers who were visiting the Mela for the first time. Even though one was an Indian-origin photographer who was returning to understand his roots, it was a new experience for everyone, including the directors.
2. River of Faith, 2013
Produced and directed by Namit Arora, this 2013 documentary was ground-breaking, to say the least. Arora spent almost a month on the banks to capture some of the greatest moments of the Kumbh Mela. The film captures the grand congregation in a raw light, with sadhus and ascetics speaking about their lives and how they actually feel about the Mela. A rare glimpse of the communal disharmony of the area is seen as well.
3. Kumbh Mela-The Greatest Show On Earth, 2013
Released in 2001, it is one of the most celebrated documentaries about the Kumbh.
4. Walking With The Nagas, 2008
Directed by Julienne Rathore, the documentary covers the festival from its start to the beginning. Later Julienne said that shooting the film was one of the most intensive experiences of her life because of the incredible people she met. According to her, the only way to really experience the Mela is to lose yourself in it and it was this transformation that she brilliantly captured in the film.
If you want to check the film out, you can do it here.
5. Mystical Journey: Kumbh Mela
The Kumbh has always been mystically pleasing to the Westerners. The mystical journey was captured beautifully from the eyes of Dominic West, acclaimed British actor. The film is the documentation of a journey he undertook with his childhood friend, James Mallinson, a Sanskrit scholart throughout Northern India. This journey included an exploration of the Kumbh Mela as well. The film was backed by the Smithsonian, due to it’s sheer brilliance.
6. Conversations at the Kumbh Mela, 2015
A group of curious people, hailing from different fields decided to descend upon the 2013 Allahabad Mela to try and understand its true essence. The result is the mind blowing compilation known as Conversations at the Kumbh Mela. The series includes an extensive documentary and a set of 8 volumes that span the spiritually distinctive experience of the Kumbh. It includes interviews and conversations with the most unlikely of heroes of the Kumbh, the people.
7. Kumbh Mela – Worlds Biggest Festival – National Geographic,
It’s a film by National Geographic journalist, Diego Buñuel, who admits when he first came to India, he had some ‘prejudices’. He agrees that he didn’t really know the country and it’s people and found it baffling that such a huge event could occur just on the basis of religion. But once you watch the film, you get a glimpse of the change the Kumbh fostered upon him. Slowly, the filmmaker saw the true magic of the Mela reflected in hundreds of thousands of people. Watch the film to take this amazing journey with him.
8. Faith Connections
Director Pan Nalin’s directive for visiting the Mela was very simple. Bring some holy water back for his father. But what he did manage to bring back was an entirely new perspective on the country he had lived in his entire life. The film traces the journey of some individuals, all from different backgrounds and how the Mela changed their lives. A little lost boy, a doting Saadhu, a wailing mother, they all somehow fit together. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, but one you won’t regret taking.