Shortcut to Nirvana: Kumbh Mela (2005)
Dir: Maurizio Benazzo and Nick Day
Release: Currently playing at the Starz Film Center.
Languages: English / Hindi
This is a documentary film about the Kumbh Mela, a huge Hindu gathering that takes place every 12 years in India. It is reported that the Kumbh Mela is the worlds largest and oldest pilgrimage dating back to circa 30 B.C.E. and has involved as many as 70 million people at each gathering. The festival takes place at the junction of the two holy Indian rivers, Ganges and Yamuna. There are several thousand Gurus whose followers setup camps devoted to their spiritual leaders where they are feed both physically and spiritually. The culmination of the festival is a bathing ritual in the river Ganges where the pilgrims bathe in the glory of the most holy of all rivers. The festival lasts for eight weeks, three of which are covered in this film.
This documentary is not tightly held, in fact it is a rather loose journey through the festival. The directors speak to several Guru and spiritual leaders showing the diversity at the festival and of the teachings in each sect. However, there are some major themes that run through each sect including: the desperate need for world peace, the importance of truth in spirituality, introspection and internal happiness. I was amazed at overall message of peace and love and it was amazing to me how different it was from many other religious gatherings.
While the production value of the film was moderate, it is completely appropriate for the subject matter and its spontaneous documentary nature. Leaving this film, I felt calm and I wanted to learn as much as I could about the festival and the people who attend. If you enjoy documentaries on spirituality and different cultures, this is your film. It is currently playing at the Starz Film Center through Thursday, April 7th where it will move to Boulder.