I learned at university that the Kumbh Mela is the largest gathering of people ever and that it occurs once every 12 years. I know it rotates between four cities meaning there is a Kumbh Mela somewhere every three years. I know Hindus from all over gather there to be cleansed in the river. But, I don't know why this is preferred to being cleansed in the river at other times.
I have wanted to attend for at least a decade, but I would have been a tourist, so it was probably okay that I couldn't go. I don't foresee a way to attend any time soon, so these questions are hypothetical for now.
Mostly I want to know four things:
- Is it okay to attend as a white, American woman? (This is specific to me, but feel free to answer generally as well.)
- How should I prepare before attending—both spiritually (What knowledge should I have? Do I need to be initiated into a particular sect of Hinduism?) and on the mundane level (Should I bring toiletries? Can I buy food there or should I prepare meals to bring along? What clothes are decent? What should I avoid bringing? Do I need to be concerned about theft? Do I need to know another language to understand the speakers or will English suffice?)?
- What can I expect to learn that cannot be learned through personal practice?
- What events are there and which are most important to attend?