Millions of Hindu devotees gather to ‘purify souls’ in Magh Mela festival

Hindu devotees gathering after arriving at Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, for a holy dip during Magh Mela festival in Allahabad. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2018
0

Millions of Hindu devotees gather to ‘purify souls’ in Magh Mela festival

ALLAHABAD, India: Millions of Hindu devotees are gathering in northern India for the Magh Mela — one of the world’s biggest religious festivals involving ritual bathing in the holy waters of the Ganges river.
An estimated 10 million Hindus descend on the city of Allahabad every January for the festival staged at the sacred meeting point of the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers.
The 45-day Mela is currently underway, with pilgrims camping across Allahabad and joining the colorful throngs for dips in the venerated waters.
Among them is Shiv Yogi Moni Swami, a holy man smeared in sandalwood paste, carrying a trident and clad in nothing more than beads and a leopard-print wrap around his waist.
Swami demonstrates his devotion not by walking to the confluence of the rivers known as the Sangam but by rolling the roughly one-kilometer distance from his tent to the waters.
It is not an easy task, with his body collecting dust and grime before he arrives at the confluence where he submerges himself fully.
The act “purifies the soul and washes away all sins,” he said, after scattering rose petals to the rising sun and performing his ablutions.
“As we bathe on this holy day in the Ganges we are praying not only for peace of our soul but for the welfare of the whole world,” Swami added.
Fellow pilgrims, impressed by his piety and fortitude, bow to touch his feet and take blessings.
Some even lie prostrate before him as he passes in a sign of reverence.
Many Indians believe that holy men like Swami possess mystical powers and are capable of curing all manner of illnesses.
For the duration of the Mela, Swami says he eats just one simple meal of fruit a day, apparently enough to sustain him through a busy schedule of chanting prayers and performing yagna, a centuries-old Hindu fire ritual.
“I believe that if you all bow before the Ganges you will be blessed with eternal peace and happiness,” he said, explaining his devotion to the holiest river in Hinduism.
“She (Ganges) is just like a mother. Just like a mother is kind to all, be it a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or a Jain, the Ganges is all encompassing.”
The annual ritual has been held in Allahabad for centuries and is a smaller version of the Kumbh Mela, a gigantic event attended by tens of millions that UNESCO describes as the largest peaceful gathering of pilgrims on earth.


‘Broken Dinners, Postponed Kisses’ tells heart-wrenching story of Syria’s lost artists

Updated 15 November 2018
0

‘Broken Dinners, Postponed Kisses’ tells heart-wrenching story of Syria’s lost artists

  • The 93-minute film follows six Syrian artists as they narrate their stories of displacement

BEIRUT: Filmmaker Nigol Bezjian premiered his latest movie “Broken Dinners, Postponed Kisses” with an intimate screening in Beirut on Wednesday night.
The 93-minute film — which features dialogue in Arabic, Armenian, German and English with English-language subtitles — follows six Syrian artists as they narrate their stories of displacement.
Bezjian, an Armenian born in Aleppo, Syria, spoke to Arab News about the experience of making the powerful film and said it was inspired by one of his previous works, “Thank You, Ladies and Gentlemen.”
“The movie is about Syrian refugees in the camps of Lebanon and it stayed with me,” he said about his previous film. “But I wanted to make a film about people in our region who had to depart their homeland, from the time of the end of World War I until today.”
That sparked the idea for his latest venture.
Bezjian chose six characters and honed in on their past experiences in what turned out to be an insightful peek through the keyhole into the lives of those who have been affected by the strife in Syria.
“The characters in the film are artists who work in different disciplines of art,” he explained.

“The film is something of a documentary, as the characters’ stories are all real, yet the concept that ties them all together was created by me,” the filmmaker continued.
Making an appearance are filmmaker Vartan Meguerditchian, actor Ayham Majid Agha, musician Abo Gabi, dancer Yara Al-Hasbani, painter Diala Brisly and photographer Ammar Abd Rabbo.
The film explores the inner feelings and reflections of people who had to leave their homes and be transported to a new environment, facing many challenges along the way.
Despite the sometimes heart-wrenching subject matter, Bezjian noted that the main challenges he faced while producing the film were budget and timeframe.
“The movie took two-and-a-half years (to make), so the main challenge was not to give up and keep the same spirit and momentum throughout this time,” he said.

At the screening, an eager crowd listened as the filmmaker gave his introductory speech.

“There are a lot of faces I don’t recognize, and that’s a good thing,” Nigol said. 

The movie is filled with tense moments, artistic shots and captivating characters, that succeeded to show the reality of artists’ lives in environments marked by conflict and refuge.