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Maha Kumbh Mela and the Spirit of India – Photography Tour 2025

Sadhus gather at the Kumbh Mela

Tour dates: 31 January – 9 February 2025 (10 days)
Tour leaders: Seng Mah and Shivam Pandey
Minimum 6 guests. Maximum 8 guests.
Pace: Moderate.
Pre- and post-tour extensions: This tour also offers an optional pre-tour extension (2 days) to the Taj Mahal in Agra, and an optional post-tour extension (4 days) in Kolkata. See below for details.


Immerse yourself in a world where the ancient echoes of human devotion come alive before your very eyes! The Maha Kumbh Mela is a grand tapestry of faith, tradition and spiritual fervour, taking place only once every 12 years. Travel with us to photograph this epic gathering of holy men (sadhus) and pilgrims on the hallowed banks of the Ganges, Yamuna and mystical Sarasvati Rivers — when it last graced us in 2013, more than 120 million pilgrims attended. In 2025, it returns with greater allure. Join us in photographing and experiencing this most sacred chronicle of human faith.

The Kumbh Mela and the Spirit of India photography tour will bring you to the very heart of the festival in Prayagraj, where you’ll spend time photographing ethereal scenes of devotees taking holy dips in the confluence of the sacred rivers, to intricate ceremonies performed by priests and sadhus. It is an opportunity for photographers to delve into the sacred heart of India, to capture her vibrant spirituality and the vivid tapestry of her humanity.

This unique photography tour begins in New Delhi, where you will have the opportunity to experience the colour and intensity of Delhi in a day of photography before we fly to Prayagraj for the Maha Kumbh Mela. Over two full days, you’ll photograph the visual spectacle of Hindu rituals, explore the akharas where sadhus and sanyasees gather to perform rituals and meditations and engage in intimate portrait sessions with these holy men.

After Kumbh Mela, we will journey to Varanasi, the city of Lord Shiva, perhaps the oldest living city in the world where you’ll continue your discovery of the spiritual side of India on its riverside ghats. Spend time with sadhus as you drift down the waters of the Ganges, and enjoy street photography opportunities as we explore the meandering lanes and alleys (galis) beyond the ghats.

After Varanasi, we travel to Chattisgarh to spend time with the Ramnami people, documenting a day in their lives. The Ramnami are Indigenous people known for their unique cultural practice of tattooing the name of the Hindu God, Ram, on their faces and bodies. This is an exclusive experience that is rarely offered in other photography journeys in India and demonstrates the intersection of tradition, spirituality and art in culture. We will have the opportunity to learn about the Ramnami, to photograph their portraits and their traditions as we are welcomed to their community and homes.

Our tour concludes with in Kolkata, the City of Joy, where we immerse ourselves in street photography in the lanes and alleys of the city’s old districts, a great opportunity for us to capture images of life unfolding in one of the most vibrant and accessible cities of India.

The photographic and travel experiences offered on this tour will leave you awestruck by devotional practices that have endured thousands of years. This tour promises a once-in-a-lifetime blend of cultural richness and spiritual connection at the heart of the Maha Kumbh Mela. It is an opportunity for the discerning travel photographer that is not to be missed!

Sadhu portrait


TOUR HIGHLIGHTS


Day 1: New Delhi

Arrive in New Delhi. Depending on your time of arrival, you’ll have the opportunity to experience the incredible energy of Old Delhi — a haven for street photography and street portraits.

Street barber, Old Delhi
Yamuna sunrise

Day 2: New Delhi to Prayagaj

Take a dawn and sunrise journey on the banks of the Yamuna River in Delhi, where the serenity of the morning provides opportunities to mingle and photograph locals and the boatmen on the river. If time permits, we will also visit a local wrestling akhara on the banks of the river.

After breakfast, we board our flight to Prayagaj in the State of Uttar Pradesh, where we check into our 5-star rated luxury camp located near the Juna Akhara, a hotspot for Naga Sadhus and a prime location for photographers. The camp provides modern comfort with traditional elegance and is a sanctuary from the hustle of the Kumbh Mela when needed. Each tent includes a shared butler service. Note that accommodation at the luxury camp is on a twin-shared basis (double occupancy). Accomodation for the other destinations on this tour is on a single occupancy basis (your own room with en-suite).

Situated at the Kumbh’s highest point, the camp also provides us with an excellent vantage point overlooking the Sangam, the main bathing area, allowing us to witness the devout bathe in the waters of the sacred rivers.

Luxury camp at Kumbh Mela
Luxury camp at Kumbh Mela

Day 3 and Day 4: The Maha Kumbh Mela

We spend the next two days fully immersed in the energy of the Kumbh Mela. This is where we will photograph compelling moments of devotion and prayer in the akharas where the holy men gather. We will also spend time photographing the main bathing day, an incredible spectacle as pilgrims and holy men bathe en masse in the rivers.

Sahdus gathering in akhara
Kumbh Mela
Kumbh Mela Naga Sadhus
Sadhu meditating at the Kumbh Mela
Naga sadhus at the Kumbh Akhara
Smoking sadhu
Sadhus marching

Day 5 and Day 6: Varanasi

We leave Prayagaj and drive to Varanasi, the holiest of cities in India. We will be staying at Assi Ghat, and enjoy exploring the Ganges by boat, and the ghats and alleyways of Varanasi on foot. Assi Ghat offers more intimate opportunities to engage with local people and visiting pilgrims, while giving us access to the main ghats such as Dasaswamedh Ghat which is always bustling with activity.

Varanasi ghats
Ganga Aarti
Varansi boatman
Women and puja in Varanasi

Day 7 and Day 8: Chattisgarh and the Ramnami

After Varanasi, we journey to Chattisgarh (by air or train), where we will explore a very different side to Hindu faith with the Ramnami people. Spending significant time with the Ramnami lets us experience the tribe’s traditions and rituals and capture soulful portraits of a people who literally bear the name of God on their skin.

Ramnami man
Ramnami woman

Day 9 and 10 : Kolkata

We depart Chattisgarh and fly to Kolkata where we have one night in this City of Joy. Kolkata is a street photographer’s paradise and our time in Kolkata focuses on exploring the the old neighbourhoods of Kolkata, where life and work mingles visibly on the streets and alleys.

The tour concludes after breakfast on Day 10. If you require a private transfer to the airport, we can arrange this for you.

If you wish to spend more time in Kolkata, a post-tour extension is available. Please see below for tour extension details.

Hand pull rickshaw wallah, Kolkata
Kolkata street scene


TOUR INCLUSIONS

  • Airport transfers on first and last day of the tour (arrival in Delhi, arrival in Kolkata. Note that included transfers are for group transfers. If you require individual private transfer due to a different time of arrival, please contact us for pricing.
  • One night in a 4/5-star luxury hotel in Delhi upon arrival with breakfast.
  • Three nights in 5-star luxury twin tents available at the Khumb Mela camp, including Shared private butler service for each twin room at Kumbh, amenities such as tent heaters, hot water bottles, extra blankets, electric lights, and 220V power points. Note that Kumbh Tents are equipped with en-suite bathrooms.
  • Single occupancy accommodation in Varanasi, Chattisgarh and Kolkata
  • All internal domestic flights and inter-city transfers ( Delhi to Prayagaj, Flight or Train ride to Chattisgarh and flight to Kolkata from Chattisgarh).
  • All land transportation in Delhi, Prayagaj, Varanasi, Chattisgarh and Kolkata (within the tour itinerary).
  • All meals with non-alcoholic drinks.
  • One private guide exclusively for our group in Kumbh Mela.
  • Gratuities to Sadhus for Interactive sessions.
  • All activities and boat ride to bathing areas and the Sangam confluence.
  • Boat ride and gratuities for sadhus in Varanasi.
  • Personalised field tuition and photographic mentoring by Seng Mah and Shivam Pandey.


TOUR EXCLUSIONS

  • International flights.
  • Entry Visa.
  • Comprehensive International Travel Insurance.
  • Incidental tips (baksheesh) paid to porters, hotel staff etc.
  • Alcoholic drinks.
  • Personal expenses eg. laundry, medication, snacks.
  • Any additional transport outside of what is included. 


TOUR PRICE

  • AUD$9700 including single occupancy in Delhi, Varanasi and Chattisgarh and double occupancy in Prayagaj.
  • A discount is available if you are attending this tour with a life partner who is also a participating photographer and will be sharing the room with you. Please contact us if you would like to discuss this.


OPTIONAL TOUR EXTENSIONS

Please note that the optional extensions are offered privately and managed by India Travel Photography. We will relate your extension booking details to India Travel Photography and they will get in contact with you.


Pre-tour Extension: Agra and the Taj Mahal (29 January – 30 January)

A visit to India is not complete without beholding (and photographing) the Taj Mahal in Agra. This pre-tour extension has you arriving in New Delhi on the 28th January, where you will be transferred to Agra (about a 3-hour road journey). You’ll photograph the Taj Mahal at sunset from Mehtab Bagh across the river, and then the grand monument at sunrise the next day before catching a return flight to Delhi in the afternoon.

Pre-tour extension price: AUD$1200
Inclusions: Airport transfer (pick up) in Delhi. All meals and non-alcoholic drinks. Photographic guidance and mentoring.


Post-tour Extension: Kolkata ( 9 February – 12 February)

This post-tour extension offers three nights accommodation in Kolkata with two full days of guided photographic exploration of the City of Joy’s streets and districts. This extension features photography of the ghats of the Hooghly River, Markets (including the famous Flower Market of Kolkata), street life, workshops and opportunities for street/travel portraits.

Post-tour extension price: AUD$1800
Inclusions: All meals and non-alcoholic drinks. Photographic guidance and mentoring. Airport transfer (drop off) for your departure from Kolkata.


Reserve your Place

A deposit of AUD$2000 will secure your place on this tour. Deposits are due on reservation, with the balance paid by 30 October 2024. Note that deposits are fully refunded if the tour is cancelled due to not attaining minimum numbers.

For details of the Terms and Conditions of our tours, including cancellation charges, please read our Photography Tours Terms and Conditions.

To join this tour or contact us with your questions, please use the form below or email seng [at] venturephotography.com.au or telephone+61 417 604 614.


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