The Kumbh Mela is the "Festival of the Urn" that pours out the nectar of immortality.
It is a great roving festival that has moved around India for more than four thousand years, erecting temporary cities along the Ganges River where millions of Hindu faithful gather to wash away their sins in the holy waters.
The 2001 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India was the largest gathering of humanity in recorded history.
It was not just the final Kumbh Mela in a 12-year cycle of festivals. It was the final festival of 12 cycles - the conclusion of a giant 144-year cycle, making it "Maha" Kumbh Mela, the Great Festival.
This 144-year buildup of spiritual meaning made it a powerfully auspicious time for pilgrims to bathe in the Ganges.
Even the planets and stars joined in, providing heavenly alignments not seen for 144 years. East joined West with the coinciding advent of the 21st Century in 2001.
Thus, roughly 70 million people came from all over the globe to pray for peace and rebirth for self and the world, truly a meeting of ancient and future in a remarkable moment.
A cinema-verité observation of a massive gathering of pilgrims and teachers of many faiths, races and nationalities. Very few direct interviews.
- PILOT BABA:
A yogi who turned to religion after serving as a fighter pilot in the brief war between Pakistan and India in the 1970s. His inclusive philosophy teaches the unity of all religions. In the course of the mela he plays host to:
- HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA:
Leader-in-exile of the Tibetan people and living embodiment of the ancient spiritual lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He speaks to the meaning of major human events like the Maha Kumbh Mela.
- YOGMATA KEIKO AIKAWA:
A Japanese yogini with an avid international following, she demonstrates an "underground samadhi" in Pilot Baba's encampment - allowing herself to be buried alive in a 9x9 pit for three days, in deep meditation.
- DR. ANDREW WEIL:
Renowned holistic medicine practitioner, author and teacher. He interviews Pilot Baba about the physical practice of samadhi.
- SIR MARK TULLY:
Legendary Delhi-based BBC journalist much of whose professional career has been in India.
- KALI BABA:
A Masai from Tanzania and a longtime Los Angeles resident. Speaking around a large plate in his lip, Kali Baba reflects eloquently on the esoteric implications of the Maha Kumbh Mela. A profound intelligence shines through his extreme appearance.
"Woodstock for the Spirit."
"Songs of the River displaces a Westerner from everyday certitudes and opens him or her to the power of the Kumbha Mela experience and the consciousness people like [Yogmata] Keiko Aikawa seek. All in all, a compelling cinematic experience."
"This documentary draws you into the kaleidoscopic mix of color, sound and mood. Watching it, you are adrift in a sea of exuberant spirituality that feels both strange and yet familiar, and you happily abandon your senses to its ebb and flow. It is a film to be experienced with the heart rather than the intellect"
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS:
- NADEEM UDDIN
A native of Bhopal, India, he now resides in the Pacific Northwest. He has produced and photographed programs for Indian television and social activist organizations. He is one of the producers of "Bhopal: The Search for Justice," a 52 minute documentary on the long term effects of the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak disaster in Bhopal, India, which premiers on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's The Nature of Things in December, 2004 and will be seen world-wide.
Uddin is the founder and President of Samsara Films.
- DAVID BRUNN
An accomplished musician, composer, sound designer and audio engineer based in Seattle, Washington. He has been a master performer and teacher of North Indian classical tabla for more than 20 years. It was his vision of a "multi-media pilgrimage" to the Maha Kumbh Mela that resulted in the web site www.kmp2001.com and the journey to Allahabad portrayed in this film.
- GORDON MODIN
The principal of Gordon Modin Video Production in Seattle, Washington. He has photographed, edited and engineered audio for industrial and commercial projects around the Pacific Northwest.
RELATED INDIA SUBJECTS:
Kumbh Mela Hindu Festival
Indian Religious Life and Customs
South Asian Studies
Hindu Pilgrims and Pilgrimage to India