The Royal Bath (Shahi Snan) Experience by Tornos at Kumbh of 2019
(This is an old 3rd party video from 2013 Kumbh being shared just to give an idea of this Royal Bath event)
Ritualistically, at the start of Kumbh Mela, Shahi Snan (the Royal Bath), also referred to as Rajyogi Snan, is the marked event when the saints, their disciples and the members of the Akhadas bathe at the prescribed time in the holy river. In fact, the date associated with the Royal Bath is considered to be auspicious.
The event of Kumbh Mela is organised at one of the four locations of India, namely, Prayagraj (also known as Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. The location is decided keeping the planetary movements in perspective. With regards to Prayagraj, the exact location of the Shahi Snan or the Royal Bath is where the holy rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati meet. The spot is popularly referred to as the Sangam (the confluence).
It is believed that while being carried, the nectar of immortality dropped at the above mentioned four places. The rivers in these places are where the nectar incidentally fell. As a consequence, these rivers became holy. In ancient India, in order to protect Dharma, the saints of the Akhadas indulged, at times, in killings. Therefore, to become sinless, it was during Kumbh Mela that they took a holy dip in river Ganges.
Traditionally, the austere are given priority over others during the Shahi Snan or the Royal bath. In fact, the event occupies the central place in every Kumbh Mela. It is only at the culmination of the Royal Bath that other visitors are allowed to take a dip in the holy water. In fact, as many visitors are not certain about the date associated with the Shahi Snan, they feel unfortunate of not able to make it to the site on the day.
On the appointed date, the Rajyogi Snan begins at about 4 am. Before 4 am, one can witness a long procession of saints and their disciples carrying various religious symbolic weapons and loudly uttering, with intense delight, divine names and religious chants. The sight of this procession is a little unusual and overwhelming for the visitors. On either side of the file moving forward, the devotees can be seen standing with flags and showering flowers on the saints. Some saints stop momentarily to allow the devotees touch their feet and receive blessings. Then, a few saints, flashing weapons, seem to scare the present devotees. As a token of respect, the path taken by the procession for the Royal Bath is decorated with rangolis, i.e., certain patterns made using either flowers or colours.
Many saints can be witnessed arriving at the destination associated with the Shahi Snan on horses, elephants and in Raths (ornate chariots) drawn by their disciples. Also, the high religious status of the saints is reflected by the sight of richly decorated umbrellas held over them by the devotees. Next, preceding the Royal Bath, a large number of saints can be witnessed walking almost naked. Their skins are rubbed with the holy ash. In addition, they are seen holding bright swords and religious flags with garlands around their necks. Then, a few of them can be spotted carrying musical instruments resembling dumbbells and large spiral shells. After the Shahi Snan, the austere visit the nearby temples. Thereafter, they start for the places from where they came.
We at Tornos make it possible for tourists to not only witness this festive occasion live, but also become a part of this unique congregation. Particularly, the opportunity, offered by us, of witnessing the event of the Royal Bath is quite special. Possibly the tour stands as the first ever attempt made by any tour operator to allow its guests experience the real essence of Kumbh Mela.