The story behind the Maha Khumb Mela is truly fascinating.

It is said that as the gods and demons churned the oceans in the heaven, to get the holy nectar, a drop fell down to Earth. It is at this spot in Allahabad, the Triveni Sangam, where three of India’s holiest rivers – the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati – meet. And it’s at this same spot that the Maha Kumbh Mela is held once every 12 years.

Sadhus from across the world congregate for a holy dip at this spot; leaving their hermit life for an interaction with civilisation. Thousands of pilgrims also make their way to the Maha Kumbh Mela, to follow in sadhus’ footsteps with the belief that the holy water will wash away their sins.

In February 2013, photographer Ram Keshav was invited to be part of the press contingent at the festival. He spent his time living and interacting with the sadhus. These are some of the most striking images from his time there.


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As I set foot into the camp, he was the first sadhu I saw. I was in awe of him and his great dreadlocks, which had been tied up with thick strings. It took me a while to realise I hadn’t yet clicked a single picture.


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As I walked further down, the posture of this sadhu caught my eye. He was sitting up straight, and was well built. He kept passing the chillum around – even to devotees.


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The crowd, at 3.55am, waiting for a holy dip. There were people as far as the eye could see.


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I got to see a lot of fascinating thing in the sadhu camp. This was one such moment. This sadhu jumped at a tourist and grabbed the sunglasses off her face before proceeding to pack his chillum and sharing it with her.


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A sadhu smears ash over his body just after a dip in the river.


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This sadhu didn’t give me permission to photograph his face, but he was the calmest person I met there. With rudraksha beads and ash covering his body, he sat completely still. Only his hand moved – the palm was constantly patting his knee, as though he was following a rhythm.

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Images Courtesy: Ram Keshav Photography