Vatican Radio has covered the “Kumbh Mela”, the pilgrimage assembly of Hindu devotees termed as biggest spiritual gathering on earth.
Vatican Radio, launched in 1931, whose tagline is “The voice of the Pope and the Church in dialogue with the world”, by virtue of its Statute is the broadcasting station of the Holy See based in the Vatican City State and “created to serve the Pope’s Ministry” with the main task to “proclaim the Christian message”. Fr. Federico Lombardi S.I. is the Director General.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed has described this coverage as a “step in the right direction” and added that Pope, being the largest religious leader of the world heading an organization of about 1.2 billion adherents, should show some leadership in initiating interfaith dialogue among various world religions/denominations to bring harmony in the world.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that however, he hoped that Vatican Radio should have been more unbiased in its coverage. While most other major media outlets of the world noted it as “biggest gathering of the world”; Vatican Radio described it as the “biggest event of its kind in this part of the world” and “biggest gathering of Hindus”, despite giving the number as “100 million pilgrims”.
For example, Rajan Zed pointed out, BBC said that it was “biggest religious gathering of humanity on Earth”; AFP termed it as “world’s biggest festival”; NPR called it “Biggest Gathering On Earth” and CNN stated it as “world’s biggest religious festival”.
This Kumbh Mela (pot-fete), a 55-day pilgrimage, started on January 14. According to a belief, all sins/evils committed by the Mela pilgrims and their ancestors back to the 88th generation will be washed away forever by a dip at Sangam during these dates and that they will achieve salvation and emerge regenerated and healed. Its observance is believed to go back to ancient Vedic period and the legend of “Churning of the Ocean” is associated with it. It is held four times every twelve years, rotating among Allahabad, Nasik, Haridwar, and Ujjain (all in India).
Various sadhus (hermits) are also said to visit the Mela; including Nagas, who do not wear any clothes; Urdhwavahurs, who believe in putting the body through severe austerities; Parivajakas, who have taken a vow of silence; Shirshasins, who stand 24 hours and meditate for hours standing on their heads; Kalpvasis, who bathe thrice a day.
Various films have documented Kumbh Mela, including “Invocation, Kumbha Mela” (2008, Fernando del Sol), “Short Cut to Nirvana: Kumbh Mela” (2004, Maurizio Benazzo, Nick Day), “Kumbh Mela: Songs of the River” (2004, Nadeem Uddin), “Kumbh Mela: The Greatest Show on Earth” (2001, Graham Day), “Kumbha Mela” (1989, Michelangelo Antonioni), “Amrita Kumbher Sandhane” (1982, Dilip Roy).