Saha Astitva Camp: Life at the Kumbh

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Saha Astitva’s presence at the Kumbh Mela was definitely a success. With people passing through, some staying a few nights, some staying a few weeks, the liveliness of the camp was there until the very end. Having come to help out with the camp well underway, I was very excited to see that it was full of people all of ages from all over the world. We had renowned visual artist Android Jones, a Swami Anandaswaroop, a family that sailed all the way from Australia, author Bharat Mansata, creator ofUnify.org Jonathan Human, musicians, comedians, coffee connoisseurs, Mother Earth Activists…  It was such a blessing to meet our guests, some of them on their first trip to India, some on the twentieth, all of them full of stories, facts and creative energies that made the camp fun, friendly and welcoming.

One of the greatest aspects of the Saha Astitva camp was the divine spiritual presence. The early mornings were a time for people to tranquilly come to the sunniest spot to do their individual practices; Surya Namaskar, meditation, japa mantras, Kalari yoga, etc. It was a sweet moment of the day that reflected the warm, cozy moments of the nightly campfire as a time to gather and peacefully exchange about travels, souls and life.

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Outside of the daily rituals and deep talks, there were moments that truly reflected the meaning of Saha Astitva; co-existance. There was one evening where over sixty people from our camp and our extended neighbors at the Rainbow Family camp across Ganga Ma came together to participate in the sunset ritual of Agni Hotra, meditate, do mantra and then break bread altogether. With a few instruments floating around, notably the sweet serenade of the mandolin, the evening guests dwindled and left with full bellies and warm smile as music wafted through the air… an evening that was made possible by our volunteers and our friend and cook, Ashok.

Another memorable experience was the great storm that came and soaked us all to the bone for three straight days! Cuddled together, people made any effort that they could to keep everyone as dry as possible by sharing spaces for sleep, digging out a ditch for the rains to flow out and taking turns making the chai. There was even a great improv kirtan that took place in the kitchen, banging on plates and pans as Ashok prepared our kitcheree lunch… Jai Ma!

Most of all, I won’t forget the feeling of comfort I got from knowing that after a six hour, barefoot walk to Sangam for the karmic cleansing bath that millions of pilgrims came for, I had a safe, calm, clean camp to come home to for a few hours rest… at least until the next guests arrived or curious Indians knocked on the door, hungry to know, who is Saha Astitva, who is your guru and do you have chai?… A quick nap is all I needed to hand a hot cup over and happily respond, “Why, our Guru is Mother Earth!”.

Thank you all for the great experience; hope to see you in Nasik for the 2015 Kumbh!

Om Namah Sivay!

Durga Devi