Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Arts & Culture

SACRED JOURNEYS WITH BRUCE FEILER: Kumbh Mela

SACRED JOURNEYS host, Bruce Feiler, at the Kumbh Mela.
Courtesy of Khishnendu Bose
SACRED JOURNEYS host, Bruce Feiler, at the Kumbh Mela.

Airs Tuesday, December 30, 2014 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Pilgrims at the Ganges River during the Kumbh Mela.
Courtesy of Krishnendu Sen Bose
Pilgrims at the Ganges River during the Kumbh Mela.
A naga sadhu, a Hindu holy man, at the Kumbh Mela.
Courtesy of Krishnendu Sen Bose
A naga sadhu, a Hindu holy man, at the Kumbh Mela.
Ganges River during the Kumbh Mela.
Courtesy of Krishnendu Sen Bose
Ganges River during the Kumbh Mela.
Pilgrims lighting candles during the Kumbh Mela.
Courtesy of Krishnendu Sen Bose
Pilgrims lighting candles during the Kumbh Mela.

What is a Pilgrimage?

Read about the six stages that characterize every pilgrimage.

Meet the Pilgrims

Explore pilgrim profiles featured in the series SACRED JOURNEYS WITH BRUCE FEILER.

Join host Bruce Feiler on an unprecedented journey to the world’s most meaningful landscapes and rigorous religious pilgrimages. Feiler and contemporary sojourners journey to sacred sites cherished by billions and visited annually by hundreds of millions of pilgrims. Each episode follows a modern-day pilgrim on a private spiritual journey. The six-part series, SACRED JOURNEYS WITH BRUCE FEILER, presents a comprehensive picture of the practice of pilgrimage in its varied expressions around the globe, over thousands of years. KPBS will broadcast two consecutive episodes on Tuesdays, December 16, 23 and 30 beginning at 8 p.m. each night: "Lourdes" (Dec. 16), "Shikoku" (Dec. 16), "Jerusalem" (Dec. 23), "The Hajj" (Dec. 23), "Kumbh Mela" (Dec. 30) and "Osun-Osogbo" (Dec. 30).

"Kumbh Mela" airs Tuesday, December 30 at 8 p.m. - Every twelve years, tens of millions of men, women and children gather on the flood plain of the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers in Allahabad, India, for the largest gathering of humanity for religious purposes on the planet, and host Bruce Feiler is there. This is the Kumbh Mela, the great Hindu festival where pilgrims come from across India, and around the world, to bathe in the water where two sacred rivers meet. Such mass bathing in the Ganges has been recorded for more than 2500 years and at least 100 million people will attend what Hindu astrologers have declared as the most auspicious Kumbh Mela in 144 years.

Host Bruce Feiler travels to the Kumbh with a group of spiritual seekers from across America, first stopping in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, downstream from Allahabad, to take part in traditional rituals on the Ganges, India’s most sacred river that is worshiped by Hindus as a goddess. Bruce and the pilgrims travel on by bus to the vast Mela tent city built on land that was underwater just months earlier and will be flooded again in just a few months more. Bruce and the American pilgrims settle into camp, surrounded by millions of other pilgrims, holy men, gurus and ash-covered Naga babas, the naked ascetics who are the most visible symbol of the Kumbh Mela.

After surviving an out-of-season monsoon that floods much of the Mela camp, Bruce and the American pilgrims meet with some of India’s leading spiritual gurus. They also join millions of fellow pilgrims, Naga babas and sadhu holy men and women who are taking a ‘holy dip’ at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers in a ritual that Hindus believe washes away sins and breaks the endless cycle of reincarnation.

Bruce Feiler is on Facebook, and you can follow @BruceFeiler on Twitter. Episodes from this series will be available for online viewing through mid-January 2015.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.