Maybe an odd sight among thousands of Saffron lads at Ardh Kumbh Mela in Uttar Pradesh, but there sits a 76-year-old businessman named Mohammed Mehmood with his board reading “Mullah Ji Light Waale” (Mullah Ji, the lighting man).
A Muslim electrician with his white skull cap, Mehmood hailing from Muzaffarnagar in Western UP, is a permanent feature of every Kumbh and is even friends with many Hindus and Sandhus in particular.
Mehmood, who had started his business of setting up lights for festivals from scratch, now spans from Janmasthami celebrations in Muzaffarnagar to the famous Nauchandi Mela in Meerut.
In 1986, Mehmood got in touch with the Sadhus of the Juna Akhara, believed to be the largest and one of the fiercest Akharas of the Naga Sadhus – an ancient order of warrior monks. They hired him to set up the lights around their tents. Now once every six years, he travels over 800 kms to Prayagraj, and camps out at the Kumbh Mela.
While speaking to a leading publication, Mehmood told that he attended the first Kumbh mela in 1986 in Haridwar and ever since then, accept the fair that is held in Nashik, he attends all the events.
Mehmood feels safe and respected among sadhus in each mela he visits. Even when he offers namaaz five times a day, nobody is bothered by his presence. Sadhus might not know Mehmood’s name but he is famous and highly loved as ‘Mullah Ji’ among all.
If the Sadhus hadn’t treated Mehmood differently, he probably would not have come to Kumbh, he recalls in nostalgia.