Daniel Cima is an award winning photographer who has exhibited his work internationally. Born in Argentina, Cima was raised in Buenos Aires and moved to Washington DC in 1978. Since 1984, he has been shooting humanitarian documentary work for the American Red Cross and the International Red Cross.
His cross-cultural communication skills honed through his extensive travels have been essential to gain access to the subjects of his photography. His body of work reflects the social conditions in countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Central Africa, Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Benin, Russia, Cambodia, Vietnam, The Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Argentina, Afghanistan, Iraq and the US.
Kumbh Mela is the largest religious pilgrimage in the world in which Hindus gather at the Ganges river to bathe in its holy waters. Sadhus, spiritual leaders who have left behind all material possessions, are seen dressed in saffron color cloths with ash powder covering their bodies. Kumbh Mela is celebrated at different locations depending on the position of the planet of Jupiter and the sun. When the sun is in Aries it is celebrated at Haridwar.
The account goes that the Gods had lost their strength, and to regain it, they thought of churning the Ksheera Sagara, the nectar of immortality. This required them to make a temporary agreement with their arch enemies, the demons (or Asuras), to work together with a promise of sharing the nectar equally thereafter. However, when the Kumbha containing the amrita appeared, a fight ensued. For twelve days and twelve nights (equivalent to twelve human years) the gods and demons fought in the sky for the pot of amrita. It is believed that during the battle, Lord Vishnu flew away with the Kumbha of elixir spilling drops of amrita at four places: Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.
Kumbh Mela is the most sacred of all the pilgrimages. Thousands of holy men and women attend, and the auspiciousness of the festival is in part attributable to this. The sadhus are seen clad in saffron sheets with ashes and powder dabbed on their skin per the requirements of ancient traditions. Some, called naga sanyasis, may not wear any clothes even in severe winter.
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.”