The Kumbh Mela (Sanskrit: Pitcher Festival) is inscribed on the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Kumbh is the world’s largest peaceful gathering of human beings.
Following image shows a painting depicting Kumbh Mela by Turner who features on the new British pound currency note.
Kumbh is held in Haridwar (where AZIMVTH residencies are located) on the banks of Ganga and foothills of Himalayas once in twelve years. Brihaspati (the planet Jupiter) enters in the Kumbh (Aquarious) zodiac mansion, as per Vedic astrology, once in 12 years. While Earth takes 365 days’ time to revolve around Sun, Jupiter does so in twelve years. Brihaspati is the teacher of the divines. In India, Thursday is known as ‘Brihaspati-vaar’.
Shown below is the documentary ‘Kings with Straw Mats – Yogis and Sadhus of the Kumbh Mela Festival’ by Ira Cohen. Filmed at the 1986 Hardwar Kumbh Mela, released in 1998. Documentary (2.3 million views, 1 hour minutes).
In the ancient times, the divines and the demons collaborated to churn the oceans. Several treasures yielded. The last and most precious of these was a pitcher (Kumbh) of nectar elixir. A drop of the elixir got spilled at the spot known as ‘Brahma-kund’ in the Ganga river at Haridwar adding to the divinity of the place.
The Old Norse poem Hymiskviða of Europe also talks about such an incident.
The earliest reference to Kumbh is made in Rigveda. Composed around 1500 B.C. in the Sanskrit language, Rigveda is considered to be crucial to the understanding of Indo-European cultural prehistory and of later Indian religious history and high literature.
‘Kumbh Mela-The Greatest Show on Earth’ Released in 2001, it is one of the most celebrated documentaries (in German) about the Kumbh.
Scores of millions of persons visit Haridwar to participate with the Kumbh festival.
Kumbh Festival is held in Haridwar from 14 January to 27 April 2021.
‘365 Haridwar’, the international artist residency programme at AZIMVTH Ashram offers a partial funding of up to USD 375 to each participant to its virtual residencies programme of celebrating and co-creating during Kumbh. Due the COVID-19 pandemic, onsite visits to Haridwar are controlled.
Watch ‘Chasing Rivers, Part 2: The Ganges’ Nat Geo Live’ here.
Duration: 14 days.
Dates: Any period of continuous 14 days can be chosen by a participant.
Themes: There are four suggested themes. A participant may choose any of these four or have a different theme of her own for the residency.
Projects: Every participant is supported with conceiving and completing a unique project inspired with these themes.
New portfolio: It is hoped that participants utilise the residency to plan portfolio of new creations.
Participants: Each Monthly Virtual residency accepts up to 9 participants only.
Disciplines: Each residency is relevant for all kinds of artists and writers.
Presentations: Participants make presentations on two occasions – one at mid-term and the other at the end of the fortnight. Each participant can invite a couple of guests during these occasions.
Faith Connections Trailer – Rubin Museum of Art New York Premiere
Exhibition: An online exhibition is held at the end of the residency.
Sale: Although not mandatory participants are encouraged to make their creations available for sale, via the AZIMVTH website. This is to help participants recover their expenses.
Publishing: Participants to AZIMVTH residencies are supported with getting their work reach art connoisseurs and public-at-large. Some examples are – articles in international magazines, talking engagements, authoring complete novel / book, picture post cards, collaboration with Bollywood films etc.
- Online sessions over Zoom and WhatsApp are held 6 days in a week. A typical week’s schedule is given below
- 4 days: Daily core sessions of duration not less than 2 hours. A core-session has three components — meditation, talk, and discussions amongst participants involving sharing the progress of their respective projects and assignments.
- 5th day: Guest talk, meditation, discussions
- 6th day: Participants complete key segments of their projects
- 7th day: Sharing with invited audience, short meditation, discussions.
- Continuous offline interactions via emails.
- Additional inputs are provided through curated set of examples of the relevant art pieces.
- Inputs of photographs, texts, audio, and video recordings of Kumbh Mela will be made available to the participants.
The Lordship of SuN
Sun enters Capricorn (Makar) zodiac as per Vedic astrology. Sun is worshipped and known as Surya Deva on whom all living beings on the Earth depend for life.
As per modern medical sciences also it is the Sun who comes closest to the concept of being ‘god’.
The residency explores these aspects as the major theme for the fortnight.
Meditation in the Modern Times
Haridwar is considered to be the birth-place of meditation and Yoga. While most meditation techniques involve breath-work, anything done consistently for a long period of time becomes a kind of meditation. Once, a French couple walked for over 5000 km from Turkey to Haridwar and had detailed discussions at AZIMVTH. Walking was meditation for them.
Participants are exposed to a variety of ancient meditation techniques. And encouraged to identify and refine their own creative processes as their own meditation.
The Perpetual Cycle of Birth, Growth, and Death
The word for ‘yesterday’ and ‘tomorrow’ in Hindi language in India is the same – kal. Time is considered to be cyclical and non-linear. The past and the future are not the opposite extremes of a time-scale like the two banks of a river or two tracks of a railway-line or two opposite sides of a coin. Rather, they are one like the two surfaces of a circular strip become one when twisted to become a Mobius strip.
Participants explore this concept through their respective art forms.
Once in 12 Years
This is the last of the four virtual residencies. It combines various features of the other three Kumbh Mela residencies.
The fee for a 14 day virtual residency is USD 875 for each accepted applicant.
Two kinds of grants are available to each participant. The total of these two grants is USD 375. The grant can be utilised only for paying part of the fee for only these four virtual residencies and not for any other AZIMVTH programme.
The Merit Grant is of USD 100. Every applicant is encouraged to apply for this grant.
The Need Grant is of USD 275. Please apply for this grant only if you fulfill at least one of the following conditions.
- Your income has drastically reduced in the year 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic or a related reason.
- Your expenses have drastically increased in the year 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic or a related reason.
- Notwithstanding the pandemic, you would have still needed financial support.
You may write to AZIMVTH (at) gmail (dot) com expressing your interest to participate or make queries.