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Published on Dec 20, 2014
In Kings With Straw Mats, Ira Cohen is both participant and observer to an extraordinary parade of people on pilgrimage into the heart of one of India's greatest sacred celebrations, the Kumbh Mela. With the eye of a filmmaker and the voice of a poet, Cohen introduces an array of holy men as they gather for the event, which occurs only once every 12 years. The Kumbh Mela traces its origin to a Hindu legend, which tells how four drops of the gods' holy elixir fell to earth from a "kumbh," or pitcher, during a battle with jealous demons fighting in the heavens. The celebration takes place at the point where the drops are said to have fallen to earth. The film examines the event's frenzied blend of showmanship, religious devotion, and madness.
Filmed at the 1986 Hardwar Kumbh Mela, released in 1998.