In Search of the Pitcher of Nectar—a book about pilgrimage, but is it?
Authored by Kalkut aka Samaresh Bose, this travelogue narrates the author’s experience of visiting the Kumbh-mela, the holy site of the confluence of three rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, at Prayag, where pilgrims bathe at a designated time of the year. According to Hindu mythology, the nectar of immortality, amrita, arising out of the churning of oceans by gods and asuras, was spilled from the pot, kumbh, in this location. The seekers believe that bathing in the confluence is a means to atonement or penance for past sins.
The narrator commences on this journey with the desire not to achieve atonement, but to learn about life, about people. He is amazed and inspired by every character he meets, whether it is his fellow passengers on the train, sadhus and devotees like Mahavir and Ramjidasi at the festival, or the family he shares a tent with.
Through the narrator’s eyes, one is also able to discern the double standards of society: masses of people come together on the same journey, but are unable to leave behind their social prejudices, classist behaviour, their weakness for sensual pleasure, their addictions, their personal tragedies and sorrows—all in the hope of God taking their pain away with one dip in the holy waters.