The Kumbh Mela is the biggest gathering of people in the history of humanity -– although few in the West have ever heard of it. More than 70 million pilgrims attend this extraordinary spiritual festival, which has been held every 12 years near Allahabad, India, for over two millennia.
A vast tent city is established to accommodate the masses, and many of India’s greatest gurus and spiritual leaders set up camp to give discourses to their devotees. On certain auspicious days everyone takes a holy dip at the confluence of two actual rivers -- the Ganges and Yamuna - and a mythical river, the Saraswati. On the main bathing day, more than 25 million people bathe in the sacred waters. This single act of faith is believed to cleanse the sins of a thousand lifetimes and secure release from the endless cycle of rebirth -- literally a short cut to the state of purest bliss ... nirvana.
Short Cut to Nirvana takes a voyage of discovery through this vivid and vibrant world, accompanied by an irrepressible young Hindu monk, Swami Krishnanand, and several Westerners, each on their own spiritual quest. We encounter some of the Kumbh Mela’s wisest and most fascinating characters, including an ascetic sadhu who has held his arm in the air for over 20 years, another who sits on a throne of nails, a Japanese devotee who is buried in a pit for three days, and a guru who proposes that Americans would do well to start meditating for three hours each day. We also spend moments in the company of an honored guest, the Dalai Lama, as senior leaders of Hinduism and Buddhism join together in an historic moment of unity.
More than a simple account of the Kumbh Mela, this film is a sensory experience of an ancient, grand occasion, a swirl of color and motion, song and cacophony, the sacred and the surreal -- spiritual India exactly as anyone would hope to find it. And from this ancient tradition comes a powerful and uplifting message of harmony, unity, and peace for all humanity.
Best Documentary, Sedona International Film Festival
Best Documentary, Tiburon International Film Festival
Oldest of the world's major religions. It evolved from the Vedic religion of ancient India. The major branches of Hinduism are Vaishnavism and Shaivism, each of which includes many different sects. Though the various sects each rely on their own set of scriptures, they all revere the ancient Vedas, which were likely composed about the mid-2nd millennium BCE. The philosophical Vedic texts called the Upanishads explored the search for knowledge that would allow humankind to escape the cycle of reincarnation. Fundamental to Hinduism is the belief in a cosmic principle of ultimate reality called brahman and its identity with the individual soul, or atman. All creatures go through a cycle of rebirth, or samsara, which can be broken only by spiritual self-realization, after which liberation, or moksha, is attained. The principle of karma determines a being's status within the cycle of rebirth. The Hindu deities having the widest following are Vishnu and Shiva, who are worshipped in various avatars, or incarnations. The goddess Durga also has a wide following. The major sources of classical stories about the gods are the Mahabharata (which includes the Bhagavadgita, one of the most important religious texts of Hinduism), the Ramayana, and the Puranas. Historically, the hierarchical social structure of the caste system was also important in Hinduism. In the 20th century Hinduism blended with Indian nationalism to become a powerful political force in Indian politics. In the early 21st century there were more than 850 million Hindus worldwide.