How to plan a trip to a Maha Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj (Allahabad) in 2019!

Kumbh Maha Mela 2019 is ccurrently on at Allahabad (now Prayagraj) and here is all that you need to plan a trip to this holy city for a complete Kumbh experience.

I attended the Maha Kumbh Mela at Allahabad in 2013 and spent a few days there living in an ashram. It was an experience quite unlike any other, especially for someone who isn’t even religious. I was with a friend and we not only explored spiritualism and faith, but also interacted with people from all walks of life. I wasn’t so much into interviewing strangers at that point of time, at least not formally, but I had a great time having small talks and photographing the sadhu babas there, especially the Naga babas. I even had a small tiff with Instagram at that time when they pulled down the picture of a Naga baba which they thought was inappropriate for all audiences. This year, however, I do see such images and I hope that means they updated their policies.

Naga baba naked sadhu indian india male man kumbh mela allahabad
Naga babas at the Kumbh Mela

I will hopefully be there at 2019 Allahabad (Prayagraj) Maha Kumbh - taking pictures and talking to many many people there. If you are also planning a trip, give me a shout-out and we will catch up there over a cup of chai with pakodas :)

The Legend of Kumbh Mela

Before we proceed ahead, I guess it’s good to do a quick recap on the story behind it. For this we need go back to the the story of ‘Samundra Manthan’. So a long long time ago, the Devas (demi-Gods) lost the battle with the Asuras (demons) who then decided to hatch a conspiracy to diplomatically defeat their enemies on advice of Lord Vishnu. It was a known fact that deep within the ocean lay the all powerful amrut or nectar, and even one drop of it would give you immortality. Devas proposed to the Asuras to work together to get this out so that they could both share it and live forever.

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad truck
A vehicle at the procession to the river ghat

naga baba Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad naked man male indian
A Naga baba 

However, when it came out after much difficulty, fighting ensued and Garuda took the pot and flew off. While in flight, four drops of amrut fell on earth at Nashik, Haridwar, Ujjain and Allahabad (Prayagraj). As amrut fell, the land also became divine and blessed and hence started the tradition of a Mela (fair) here. The rivers at each of these places became blessed as well and it came to be believed that a dip in these holy rivers would rid you of all your sins and help you attain moksha.

So now Kumbh is celebrated every 12 years years in rotation at these places:
Prayag (Allahabad) - confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers
Haridwar - Ganga river
Ujjain - Shipra river 
Nashik - Godavari river

Ardh kumbh (or half Kumbh) is held every six years at only two places - Prayag and Haridwar.

Kumbh Mela schedule at 2019

This year the Kumbh Mela starts at Allahabad (Prayagraj) on the 15th of January and finishes on the 4th March 2019. The mela has some important dates when everyone takes a holy dip at the sangam.

Here are the key dates:
  • Makar Sankranti - 15-01-2019/Tuesday
  • Paush Purnima - 21-01-2019/Monday
  • Mauni Amavasya (Somvati) - 04-02-2019/Monday
  • Basant Panchami - 10-02-2019/Sunday
  • Maghi Purnima - 19-02-2019/Tuesday
  • Mahashivratri - 04-03-2019/Monday

It’s difficult to pick a dates from among these, especially if you are attending Kumbh for the first time. Well, I can share my two cents from my limited experience at the last Kumbh Mela at Prayag.

I believe that if you want to truly understand and feel the Kumbh experience, you must attend one of the Shahi Snan (Royal Bath) days. These are three in total and on each of these days there is a procession and a very large number of people participate. As a photographer, it’s almost like heaven, especially if you like people. Naga babas (naked sadhu, more later in the post below) also come out in full force and though you can't interact with them much then, you can certainly take pictures. When I was at Prayag two years back, I got stuck with one of the akharas of Naga babas and ended up taking a holy dip with them. It was not planned, but I got to see them quite up, close and personal, and quite literally too :)

It's good to come for three days, and plan this around one of the main bathing days. Do yourself a favor and never come on the day of the snan, as getting into the city would be close to impossible. Be in Allahabad a day in advance and come only using public transportation. If you come in your car, it will be a pain to find a place to park - though it's not impossible. The buses will drop you at the main bus-stand and from there the last few kilometers would be on foot. You can also take shared autos or other means of local transportation.

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad bathing ghats
The busy bathing ghats

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad procession
Holy men leading the performance

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad men praying on floor
Two men praying on the floor all the way to the ghat

Suggested Itinerary for 2019 Prayagraj Kumbh

Here is how a typical three-day itinerary for Prayagraj Kumbh could look like. The intent for this itinerary is to attend any of the main events. I suggest reaching two days before the event  and leaving on the day right after that.

Day 1

  • Arrive in Allahabad in the morning
  • Find a place to stay and dump all heavy and expensive stuff there. There is a possibility to stay a tent at the ghat also - do check for this before you go as typically they will all be sold out.
  • Walk to the main ghat and see where all you will get access on the main day, if required speak to the police. If you have a camera you could say you are a freelance photographer and need help. Check for timings on the Shahi snan day.
  • Take pictures, plan and more importantly soak in the space
  • Walk to the area where sadhus stay (ask politely before you enter the camp)

Day 2

  • Go to ghat and attend the ceremonies there
  • It's a huge area and it's good to go early and know all about it - also figure out the path of the procession
  • Take pictures, talk to people
  • If possible visit the tents where the sadhus live and interact with them - this isn't easy and you need good people skills to do that

Day 3

  • Reach the main ghat really early morning, much much before sunrise
  • After this, just go with the flow - protect yourself and the camera
  • If you also want to take a holy dip, leave your camera behind or leave it with a friend
  • Wear your shorts under a dhoti, so that you can easily change - it also helps you merge with the crowd
  • Hang out till the day gets over - it can get very very tiring
  • Leave back to your city late in the night or early next morning   

Life inside a Kumbh Camp

As I said, there is nothing quite like staying within the Kumbh camp itself. There is so much to do, and so much to see, it’s just crazy! Here are some images, though they don’t tell you everything that you can do there - consider this to be just a sneak peel :)

It's really easy to get lost at the camp, and you would often need to ask people for directions. Remember the gate you enter from, and if possible, some landmarks also.

The camp in Prayagraj is located not too far from the ghat and you can easily walk back and forth. The following images can give you an idea of what to expect at the Maha Kumbh mela.

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad prayag tents top view
The view of the living area in the Kumbh camp

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad tent morning
An early morning at the camp site

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad begger girl
A young begger girl at the camp

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad laughing women
Women drying their clothes and chatting up

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad top view tents
Crossing over a make-shift bridge

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad food
A community eating area where free food is distributed

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad procession
The guruji from the ashram where we stayed

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad men indian
Lunch in making - most cook in open kitchens

Lost and Found - call of the loudspeakers
As you move around the camp, there is one sound that follows you everywhere, and this is the sound of loud speakers making announcements from the 'Lost and Found' section. It's heart breaking to hear the cries of young children telling their names and calling out to their parents. Most of these kids do get reunited and the endings are happy.

However, you will also hear numerous old men and women calling out to their children to take them back. Often, these calls go unheeded as some misuse the mayhem of Kumbh to leave their old parents behind and go back to their villages. The really old and frail parents sometimes do not remember their homes and villages well, and often have no money to go back, even if they do. What happens to them after that ? Some find a place in an ashram in town, many become beggars on the streets and some simply perish.

The Holy Dip

As I said, a dip in the river is believed to help you attain moksha so it's really important for many Hindus. People come from far far away places for this, and many of these are extremely poor. It's considered auspicious to to take bath on the most important days and the myth is that it cures you of all your illness and washes away all your sins.

In any case, here are some images of people talking a holy dip from Allahabad.

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad bathing ghat
The bathing area early in the morning

Indian man male boy underwear bathing at night Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad
A young man jumping in to the river

women bathing at night Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad
Bathing goes on late in the night - two women helping each other dress up

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad old man bathing ghats
An old man at the ghat

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad sadhus night shot
Praying together to the river Ganga

indian male bathing underear river ghat Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad
A young man contemplating on the river bank...

Naga babas - the elusive ones...

Every time you see images of Kumbh, it would most certainly be dominated by these naked sages who come out of their living spaces for the holy dip and then disappear again altogether for the next four years. But the obvious question would be to ask who exactly are these babas? And where do they come from? Do they have a social structure and hierarchy? And most interestingly, why are  they naked or ash-smeared?

naga baba naked kumbh mela 2015 nashik allahabad 2013 man male india
Baby getting ready...

naga baba naked kumbh mela 2015 nashik allahabad 2013 man male india
The rockstar Naga baba

naga baba naked kumbh mela 2015 nashik allahabad 2013 man male india
Time for blessings
Long ago when Hinduism was at it lowest in India and Buddhism was the main religion of almost the entire country, there emerged a leader who is considered as one man responsible for the revival of Hinduism and making India in to a Hindu country once again. Born in Kerala, this man came to be known as Shankaracharya. It was not an easy struggle and Shankaracharya realised that to achieve this, he would need to fight this religious war on two front - philosophical as well as on the battlefield. This is how he made both shaastra (knowledge) as well as astra (weapons) the part of Hinduism, with acharyas taking care of the shaastra while the Naga babas were organised to lead with the shastra. After the religious war was won, they were not needed for fighting any battles and hence the retreated into their own camps, where they continue to learn martial arts and living completely by themselves away from the rest of the world.

naga baba naked kumbh mela 2015 nashik allahabad 2013 man male india

naga baba naked kumbh mela 2015 nashik allahabad 2013 man male india
Taking a walk in the mela...

naga baba naked kumbh mela 2015 nashik allahabad 2013 man male india
Taking a kash...

So what do the Naga babas do? What’s the social structure?
Some of them are part of Dashnam Sanyasi tradition and move around on foot from one Kumbh mela to the other, passing through hundreds of villages and telling tales of Shiva. The rest of them live a life of extreme privacy and rarely seen unless you go to a Kumbh Mela.

The astradhari sadhus or Naga babas are organised into akharas or regiments. Some of the bigger akhara are Juna (old in Gujarati) Akhara with highest number of babas, followed by Niranjani Akhara and Mahanirvani Akhara. An Akhara has a well organised structure and is led by a council called Sri Pancha representing Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti and Ganesha. A Naga baba is often a Shaivite (follower of Shiva), but some are also Vaishnavite (follower of Vishnu).

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad akhada akhara
These vehicles come out in the procession on the day of Shahi snan
Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad naga baba naked indian man male
A young Naga baba  giving his blessings

When at Kumbh, a specific order is followed for the snan (holy bath) and it is always led by the Naga babas, and then followed by the general public. Even amongst the Naga babas, there is hierarchy which is always followed. 

Can one become a Naga baba?
Well, technically it is possible though it is not an easy task. The first step to initiation is to find a guru who would take you in his fold and under his guidance you can be one like him. Kumbh Mela is the place to be if you intend to find a guru.

Why are Naga babas naked?
Naga babas give up all things that bind them to life and its comforts, including clothes. It allows for easier communion with the almighty. However, its not a compulsory to be naked and you can see some of the younger Naga babas in a langot (loin cloth) also.

You will also see many with ash smeared on their bodies; this is to keep them warm,e specially if Kumbh takes place during the cold winter months.

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad naga baba sadhu yoga
Some extreme yoga!

Kumbh mela 2013 ganga allahabad baba sadhu bathing
Babas just after the holy dip

Tips for Allahabad Kumbh Mela 2015

General Tips:
  1. Start Early - this means start before the sun comes up and join the devotees when they take the morning bath with the rising sun
  2. Sleep Late - the place never really sleeps and there is much to be experienced late in the night 
  3. Don’t just walk with a camera, interact - talk to people, everyone. It is alright to walk in to the akharas and even talk to the Naga babas. They are not exactly friendly, but they do interact if you are respectful to them and their makeshift home. Taking pictures is alright, but sometimes things can get tricky. Do not sneak in and take pictures, many babas hate to be clicked.
  4. Do not miss talking a holy dip - I know the water gets dirty and looks dirty and with hundreds of naked or semi-naked bodies around, the last thing on your mind is to join them. I would still suggest that you do that. I did it and the experience was very unique.
  5. Attend a sat-sang or two - the mela is full of ashrams and prayer halls. They are all open to everyone (most of them), and you must walk into some and spend sometime listening to what the sadhus have to say. Its an integral part of the mela and you don’t want to come back without the whole experience, do you?
  6. Listen to a guru talk - these are more personal interactions with the guru of an ashram, and you can’t just walk into these sessions. However, if you are dressed well, look respectful and walk in confidently, no one will stop you.
  7. Be humble and be respectful - Don’t ever forget this, because as a traveler you are actually going to witness a highly personal celebration of this group. Smile and be respectful.
  8. Food - you will only get vegetarian food during the festival. There are many dhabas in and around the mela area, and you will get food till late in the night also.
  9. Carry practical stuff - water, extra batteries, cheap footwear (don’t wear shoes, just flip-flops)

Tips for women travellers: 
  1. It’s a little tricky to be a women traveller, though I would not at all recommend you not going there. I hope my suggestions do not sound regressive.
  2. It’s good not to travel solo, so see if you can go with a bunch. A few guys in the group would help.
  3. Dress conservatively and avoid skirts - salvaar kameez would be the best in my opinion
  4. Do not go into the Naga baba akharas, unless you take permission from them in advance. These men are celibates and such distractions may not always be appreciated
  5. Be careful if you want to take a holy dip, its a very busy space and there might be some inappropriate touching

Having given these warnings, I think it’s not a scary place and you must not worry. Just be more cautious and you are bound to have lots and lots of fun :)

Where to stay?
Stay could be tricky during the Kumbh mela as most hotels get pre-booked much in advance, especially around the key bathing days. When I visited Allahabad, my friend and I actually stayed with a baba in his makeshift ashram on the river bank within the Kumbh complex. This happened only because he knew someone who was a big donor to the babaji and so we were almost treated like VIPs and even got a tent with an attached western style toilet and running water. This was luxury and I do not think one should hope for this.

Your best bet would be to stay in a hotel or a lodge in Allahabad (Prayagraj), unless you know someone already in the city. Of course, living within Kumbh complex is an experience in itself, especially the midnight walks as the place never really sleeps.

I have no personal recommendations to make for Allahabad (Prayagraj), so use google for it :)

How to reach?
Allahabad is easy to reach by either bus or train - it has excellent connectivity. You can also drive in but parking in the city would be a challenge.


Need some more advice on something? Do leave me a comment and I will reply back to you as soon as I can.


  1. Very nice compilation of useful information and good photographs.

    1. If anyone wants train tickets for the Maha Kumbh , i can arrange it. Call at 098234 89284 or or visit

  2. Wonderful post , Thanks for sharing. Great pics

  3. Look forward to this magnanimous mela. Helpful tips, Sid. What are your travel dates?

  4. Hari OM
    Nicely done Sid.... but I never felt the pull of the kumbha! As a 'shaastradhari', the preference is for less crowds and more silence! Look forward to your 'reports' though &*> YAM xx

  5. :) I am really drawn to the event because of the people there...I am so so intrigued. I will do my best to do justice to the event :)

  6. Not yet decided...but maybe around one of the 'shahi snan' days...

  7. Great blog post Sid, I love the photos and the detailed tips, too. Well done!

  8. I will try the best to attend Nashik Kumbh Mela this year. I attended at Allahabad few years ago. Lets see if we meet.

  9. Thanks a ton Mariellen! So good to see you here :)

  10. Sounds good. I also attended the Allahabad one in 2013 and loved the reconnect when you plan to go and we might just bump into each other :)

  11. Good hai G.. looks like you have convinced me to join the same.....but I am still wondering to go alone or invite other travelers to join....

    1. That's a difficult question to answer...I also don't know as yet :)

  12. A great detailed write up. Just wondering how do I coax someone to join me from Pune :)


    View Space

    1. Hello Rathina, I am also looking for an option to travel from Pune to Nashik. I am travelling from bangalore actually and taking a pit stop in Pune. Any suggestions on the best mode of transport from Pune?


    2. Thanks Rathina :) What dates are you planning? I think there will be a big group of bloggers and Instagrammers on the first shahi snan...

  13. Thanks for writing this article Siddhartha. Very detailed too.

  14. This is the first article I came across which gives some really good practical information .

  15. Great Article, always wondered about these traditions from childhood.
    One small note:at the cost of being non-ideological, it would be ideal if you remove the word
    " mythical" beside the Saraswathi River.
    Thank You

  16. BEst Post, Very helpful Information and hats off for the Cliks...U rock man

  17. If anyone wants train tickets for the Maha Kumbh , i can arrange it. Call at 098234 89284 or or visit

  18. Hello SId,
    Thank you for this post.
    I will be traveling from mumbai so do you know any one with whom i can come along ??
    My dates are 29th aug or even 28 th aug

    1. Hi Supreet, I know of a lot of people who are going there on these dates (I am not one of them). 29th would be quite a busy and crazy day there, so I am not sure if you will be able to meet any specific people. My only recommendation would be to catch up with people your age with a camera - usually everyone is very helpful at such places :)

  19. Hey hi! This has so much more information than what I've been fed the last couple of weeks! Thank u and great pics! We're planning to go on the 26th of august for photography, which isn't shahi snan but 1st. Any suggestions on venues and itineraries? Our first time so no clue!
    Also is it a good idea to go on the 25th of sept? Is photography possible? Also do we need permits?
    Thanks in advance!

  20. Hey hi! This has so much more information than what I've been fed the last couple of weeks! Thank u and great pics! We're planning to go on the 26th of august for photography, which isn't shahi snan but 1st. Any suggestions on venues and itineraries? Our first time so no clue!
    Also is it a good idea to go on the 25th of sept? Is photography possible? Also do we need permits?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Photography is certainly possible and you don't need permits. This would be my first time also at Nashik kumbh, but I do plan to add more details after I make my visit...

      Have a great time there :)

  21. First i Would like to thanks siddhartha for the marvelous photography he shared and the great blog with lots of information. Also he help out with the pacific dates for Shahi Snan (Royal Bath) so the hardcore photographers can try their luck on this days for getting the pics from mela.

    Thanks a lot Sidd for the interesting & Informative blog......Keep it up!!!!!

    1. Thanks Ranchan! I am super happy you found the informaiton useful :)

  22. Wow.. this is xactly what i was looking for my first ever Kumbh experiance. A well written and detailed guide. Thanks a lot Sid for it. BTW whats your plan to visit Nashik?

    Well I am visiting Nashik. Leaving from Pune on friday 28th morning on Bike/car. Is anyone going on same date from pune and need a compny?

    1. Hi Kiran, I was going going to do the same...leave on 28th and come back later. I have one small tip for transportation though - if possible, go by bus. From what I understand you won't be allowed to take your personal vehicle inside the city and might have to part it outside and then walk in or use special buses...

      I have canceled the trip for this weekend due to another work trip. Will plan for the next 'snan day' now...

    2. Thanks Sid for reply and suggestion.

  23. Hey Siddhartha...great article...enjoyed reading it. It would be nice to catch up with you during the next 3 days that I plan to be there. Do send me your number if you can....mine is 9802335946.

  24. Very nice & useful information and good snaps. So, hurry up just plan a trip of nasik & book a cab from Bharat taxi and enjoy your journey....

  25. Hello Sid,

    I am planning to leave this Friday, 11th September, from Pune. Are you around during these days?


  26. Hey Sid.. Nice Article.. Thank you !
    We were planning to spend couple of days near Trimbakeswar temple. But from your article, i could see that you have mentioned about spending time near Nashik (Ram Kund). So, which is the main area where the Kumbhmela is happening?

  27. Hi Sid ,
    Gr8 information I am planning to nashik and was confused abt my itenary but ur blog gave me a lot of information thanks a lot for a detailed information
    No questions left

  28. Hi Sid ,
    Gr8 information I am planning to nashik and was confused abt my itenary but ur blog gave me a lot of information thanks a lot for a detailed information
    No questions left

    1. sorry, photographing. Maybe a collaboration in the near future? it would be amazing :D

  29. This is truly wonderful and inspiring :) I wonder if you've heard of Victoria Lautman? She does lovely job of photographic Indian architectural stairwells before they disappear

  30. hi sid.. loved ur blog..very informative indeed!im leaving on 17th n will return on 20th.. is anyone there or does anybody have any tips on accommodation..n sid, when will u be there?

  31. Hi Sid,
    Your ramblings on ‘Nashik Maha Kumbh’ is where it started.

    ‘Street Photography In Puri, Odisha ‘ - Bright colours were all over the pictures just because of the stories presented behind. Impressed by your travelogue very much… We’re glad to admit it!

    Share your travelogues on our global platform. Own this space on Sulekha for the Indians living abroad.

    Sulekha.US would be glad to present your nomad’s stories by all means.

    It’s all yours and you’re going to own an exclusive Travel blog with Sulekha to share your travel posts along with their back links.

    We would promote it across our wall and social media.

    Please spread your traveler’s instincts amidst us!

    “I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.”
    - By George Bernard Shaw

    Thanks & regards,
    Hamida, Content Manager, Sulekha US

  32. Is it a good idea to reach Kumbh Nashik on 19th September Saturday, considering the third Shahi Snan is on 18th the day before?

  33. Is it crowded even a day or two after shahi snan dates.
    Planning for 20th sep. Will it be a good idea to go there over the weekend?

  34. Hello Sid, thanks for such a nice post. I wonder if going for 25th which isn't one of the snans but the ending of Nasik Kumbhmela is worth visiting or not? Talking over Email would be convenient and could you help do that?

  35. Thank you Sid for Wonderful Tips About Kumbh Mela, I will go to Nashik Kumbh Mela for Last Shahi Snan on 25th-Sep. And These Tips are Very helpful to me. I will go with my Wife so Tips for women travellers is also very helpful to my Wife.

    After Nashik i will plan to Rameshwaram tour So if you have any information about Rameshwaram tour than suggest me so i will decide how many days are Good For Rameshwaram Tour and also Suggest me any best Hotel in Rameshwaram.

    Again Thank you Sid, Keep Writing your Blog is very helpful for Traveller.

  36. Nice Blog. thanks For Sharing This With Us. To know More About History Of Kumbh Mela

  37. Hello. Very nice blog, and very important knowlegable blog.
    please provide us about

  38. Kumbh Parva is an important festival of Hindu religion, where hundreds of devotees bathe in the Kumbh festival site Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain, and Nashik. Each of these places is organized every 12th year. In Haridwar and Allahabad, there is a semi-Kumbha in the interval of six years between two Kumbh festivals. The meaning of the word ‘half’ means half and for this reason, in the interval of twelve years, in the middle of the full moon, ie six years after the completion of Aquarius Aquarius is held. The last Kumbha in Haridwar was held in 1998. The history of Kumbh Mela is at least 850 years old. As it travels in twelve zones, it takes 12 years. Therefore, after every twelve years, Kumbha is organized at the same place. But for Kumbh, there is a plan for Kumbh in every third year at different places in different places. One year of the earth is the day of the Gods, therefore every 12 years Kumbha is organized in one place. Twelve years of the gods come 144 years after the people of the earth. It is believed that Kumbh is held in heaven after 144 years, so that year Mahakumbha is organized on earth.

    For more information visit

  39. Superbly worded as ever Sid...this will surely entice even those are intending to go !! me being a part of that ..;) ur blog gives lot of information for the visit to this magnanimous event .. thanks a lot for a detailed information. Thanks for sharing..

  40. Hi, very well drafted Sid,
    I am planning fr maha kumbh this year, Is i feasible for solo woman traveler?


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