As I approached Allahabad, I saw Hindus looking out into the horizon from the riverside, hands joining heart, mantras in lips, closed eyes. Flowers and candles on lap, ready to go as offerings to invisible ones. Everyone chanting prayers with a fervor that boils up their past. Some were emotional to be there, where the rivers met. Some seemed accustomed. Regardless, everyone paid their respects to the holiest of rivers. Everyone praised the divine on earth as they witnessed two goddesses becoming one. This is the Sangam, where River-Goddess Ganga meets Yamuna, in Allahabad.
I couldn’t help but remember my hometown in Brazil. Manaus, an urban dot lying deep in the green of Amazon forest. There, two of the region’s largest rivers meet; Negro and Solimões join hands and form the Amazon. Before finally merging, they swim together for miles, in a spectacle of colors, textures, and temperatures. One brown, the other black. One light, the other heavy. One warm, the other cool. An integration of contrasts; creativity of opposites. The Amazon “River Sea” takes birth. Is this less of a Sangam than that I witnessed in India? Why haven’t I practiced the same heartfelt devotion for that, for the Amazon, its forest and rivers?
I thought: maybe because of of our different histories. India’s scriptures have proclaimed the sacredness of Ganga and Yamuna for thousands of years. The original inhabitants of Brazil were killed off, and their culture and wisdom, wiped off. But still, I wondered: could we trace that reverence and humility back to their source? To be honest, I am not sure. But four months in India has given me faith. It is possible.
Because India teaches that each mountain and river, each plant and creature, is holy. That all belong to the sacred geography of Earth. That the other side and this side are one, that the divine inhabits the earth. That consciousness only sees oneness. That unity is possible. That sometimes you see your own city through from afar, as though the same place appeared on earth twice. That where the rivers meet, a hidden message can be found. Are you listening? What is this language of symbols through which life speaks to us all the time?
Besides such, Allahabad holds an air for me of sacredness too: that’s where the guru of my favorite musician is, and I met the sage and the children of his Kutir. That’s where I heard the countless fireworks of Diwali burning. That’s where I sampled through many of India’s sweets at an expensive candy shop as a guest. That’s where I got so many mosquitoes bites that I found it difficult to know whether my skin was red or white, and I couldn’t count. Yet, all was fine. Soon, I would be in Varanasi.