The Kumbha-Mela Of Allahabad: A Freak Fair ?
The kumbha-mela which is taking place at the moment in Allahabad, demonstrates once again to which extent western journalism, when it is applied to India, harps on the anecdotal, the superfluous, the derogatory, deforms everything and transforms what is beautiful and noble into a show of freaks and fanatics. And wasn’t that the headline of the Independent of London ” A freak fair “? News agencies in Europe and the US are only interested in the photos of Hollywood stars (Madonna, Demi More, Richard Gere, Pierce Brosnan, etc.) who are going to descend on the kumbha mela, even if they will be totally lost amongst the millions of (real) devotees. Western newspapers and magazines do not know by which end to take this gigantic mela and and are content to talk about uninteresting angles : sadhous and mobile phones, luxury tents for foreigners in search of spirituality, or the ” Indian nationalists ” trying to capitalize on the mela.
Isn’t it strange that at the time of globalization and standardization of the whole world, at a time when the civilization of Coca-Cola And MTV reigns supreme from Rio de Janeiro to Manilla, from Paris to Shangai, at a time when man’s collective consciousness is universally lowered to an idiotic level by American TV Soaps – Bold and Beautiful, or Friends – nobody in the West finds it extraordinary that eighty million souls converge by plane, by car, on horseback, on foot towards a place which they consider sacred, to pray to That which is beyond us, to this immanent Force towards which men have aspired to since millenniums?
But not at all ! What does the western press do ? It publishes photos of naked sadhus, or stretched out on beds of thorns; it harps on the ban of Cox & Bains unethical marketing of the mela, or speaks of the VHP’s fundamentalism. Always these images which denigrate India, always this colonial superior spirit which perpetuates itself in the negative vision which western journalists have of the Indian subcontinent.
O sadness, O despair that at the beginning of this third millennium, the West remains obsessed by the caste system, or the rise of Indian ‘nationalism’ (which does not exist) and does not realize the extraordinary miracle that is India, which not only is becoming a great power in Asia, but maybe holds within herself the key to French writer André Malraux’s famous (and accurate) prediction: ” the 21-th century will be spiritual or will not be “.
François Gautier (correspondent of Le Figaro for eight years and author of “Arise O India – Har Anand)