The main day of bathing is taking place at India's Kumbh Mela, with more than 30 million pilgrims expected to take a dip at the confluence of India's Ganges and Yamuna rivers. This is the most auspicious of six bathing days at the event, billed as the biggest human gathering.Want a novel that immerses you in Kumbh Mela and other Hindu traditions? Try Vickram Seth's A Suitable Boy. It's long, but I hear it's very worth it. Here is an excerpt from the book's description of Kumbh Mela:
They wore woven bags, shovels and buckets, stakes, flags, feathers and large marigold garlands. Some were suffering from the heat and fatigue. Others sang as if in a snack, or singing bhajan and other sacred songs, because the excitement of watching the mother Ganges removed the jet lag at a time. Men, women and children, old and young, black and clear, rich and poor, Brahmins and untouchables, Tamil and Kashmiri, sadhus in saffron dresses and naked naga sadhus rested on the sand all along the streets. The smell of incense, marijuana, sweat and food: the crying of children, the megaphones that whistled, women who sang Kirtan and policemen shouting; the sight of the sun sparkling on the Ganges and the sand faded into small whirlwinds where there were people, all conspired to infuse a sense of compelling euphoria.(h/t to the Ana Morales blog.)
And here's a description of the novel as a whole:
Vikram Seth's novel is, at its core, a love story: Lata and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, are both trying to find -- through love or through exacting maternal appraisal -- a suitable boy for Lata to marry. Set in the early 1950s, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves.