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Hindu Press International
The Australian Boatman At Kumbh Mela
on 2013/2/27 18:29:06 ( 1425 reads )

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ALLAHABAD, INDIA, February 24, 2013 (BBC): What is a farm owner from Australia doing with a boat at the Kumbh Mela festival in India? Andrew Turner has built the boat and is ferrying pilgrims for free at Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, where the festival is held.

Millions of people bathe at Sangam in what is billed as the world's biggest religious gathering. Hundreds of people also take boat rides every day into the middle of the waters, where the two rivers meet.

The local boatmen, called mallahs, were so bemused by Mr. Turner's idea that they allowed him to ferry people for free in a very competitive market crowded by hundreds of oared and motor-powered boats of various sizes.

Mr. Turner has cherished his dream of ferrying pilgrims at Sangam since 1989, when as a 21-year-old backpacker in India he visited that year's Kumbh festival. Later, he even studied boat making in the US.

He persisted with the idea after he got married. But he missed his chance of coming to the 2001 Kumbh because his twin daughters had just been born. So after years of planning, Mr. Turner left his 90-acre avocado and blueberry farm in Comboyne, north of Sydney, last October and arrived in Varanasi, near Allahabad, with his family.

"I have a huge faith in humanity that I gained the last time I was in India. Travelling on my own, I found myself in some ridiculous situations, sometimes life-threatening. "And every time it was an Indian who helped me out. So we wanted to come to India and give back. I wanted the children to experience India," says Mr. Turner, 45.

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