Today in India: Kumbh Mela

The Purna Kumbh takes place at four places (Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik) after every twelve years, while the Ardh Kumbh Mela is celebrated every six years at Haridwar and Prayag. Over 45 days beginning in January 2007, more than 17 million Hindu pilgrims took part in the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayag, and on January 15, the most auspicious day of the festival of Makar Sankranti, more than 5 million participated

Kumbh Mela is attended by millions of people on a single day. The major event of the festival is a ritual bath at the banks of the rivers in each town. Other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor, and religious assemblies where doctrines are debated and standardized.

Kumbh Mela is the most sacred of all the pilgrimages. Thousands of holy men and women (monks, saints and sadhus) attend, and the auspiciousness of the festival is in part attributable to this. The sadhus are seen clad in saffron sheets with plenty of ashes and powder dabbed on their skin per the requirements of ancient traditions. Some called naga sanyasis may often be seen without any clothes even in severe winter, generally considered to live an extreme lifestyle.

After visiting the Kumbh Mela of 1895, Mark Twain wrote:

“It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites.”

More at Wikipedia: Kumbh Mela

How to Wield a Knife

Cutting yourself:

I am an expert. I have sliced off thumb tips and fingernails. I have shaved paper-thin wafers of my knuckle and buried a breaking/cimeter knife an inch and a half into my forearm. If it weren’t for the stainless steel chainmail “butcher bra” that Josh from Fleisher’s bought me for Christmas last year, I might not be alive to write this essay, having perhaps bled out from one of the many horrible chest wounds averted by its Mithril magic.

How to Wield a Knife – The Atlantic Food Channel. (Via kottke.org)

Against the Grain

“He had had the boudoir walls covered with bright red tapestry and all round the room he had hung ebony-framed prints by Jan Luyken , an old Dutch engraver who was almost unknown in France.

He possessed a whole series of studies by this artist in lugubrious fantasy and ferocious cruelty: his Religious Persecutions, a collection of appaling plates displaying all the tortures which religious fanaticism has invented, revealing all the agonizing varieties of human suffering – bodies roasted over braziers, heads scalped with swords, trepanned with nails, lacerated with saws, bowels taken out of the belly and wound onto bobbins, finger-nails slowly removed with pincers, eyes put out, eye lids pinned back, limbs dislocated and carefully broken, bones laid bare and scraped for hours with knives.

These pictures, full of abominable fancies, reeking of burnt flesh, echoing with screams and curses, made Des Esseintes’ flesh creep whenever he went into the red boudoir, and he remained rooted to the spot, choking with horror.
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The Snowflake Man

“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated., When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.” ~ Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley 1925

http://snowflakebentley.com/ http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/blog/2010/02/snowflakes.html