King Kailash the wonder hound. / by Ed Godsell

When I first encountered Kailash, the fine Tibetan Mastiff pictured below, he was riding astride an Elephant with his Master (or his Apprentice, however you see it) the Irishman Charlie baba.  They were part of a large procession of Indian Sadhu ascetics that were entering the old city of Allahabad for the two month long Hindu festival known as Maha Kumbhamela, this day four years ago.  The Maha Kumbhamela is held once every 144 years and as such was a very special occasion for Hindu pilgrims and Sadhu's alike.

The procession was the most amazing thing I had ever witnessed and as a Photographer/Videographer I was nearly overcome by the sheer spectacle, the colours, the sounds, the faces.  There were elephants brightly coloured bearing chillum smoking Sadhu's, there were fine horses and camels accompanied by large bands of men playing loud music, blowing trumpets and trombones, banging drums and dancing wildly, there were men pushing huge old sound systems the like I'd never seen.

Kailash sat sereneley astride the elephant surveying the crowds below, at one stage he slipped but his Master had him on a leash and managed to haul him back up after no small struggle.

I was to spend the next few weeks living with Charlie baba and kailash in a tent (and several other Sadhu's)  in a camp that had been built on the flood plain where the river Ganges meets the Yamuna and was the sacred spot where the Sadhu's and pilgrims would bathe in the waters to renew themselves on this auspicious occasion.  Our camp was one of many others, word had it that up to 120 million pilgrims came to wash over the two month period, coming from all over India, 30 million alone on one single day.   A whole tented city was built on the flood plain to accommodate the sadhu's and pilgrims, an amazing wonder of logistics in itself.  Electricity was supplied to every tent, wood was provided for the countless sacred Dunhi's (campfires built in each camp kept alight throughout the duration of the festival upon which many rituals were performed and I learned a whole new way of thinking about fire and man's relation to it)   There were large decorative tents that performed the role of the Courthouses where a high Sadhu , usually naked but covered in ash from the dunhi would arbitrate any disagreements.

 There were feeding stations where everyone ate simple food from plates made from leaves, toilets that were dug into the sand and sprinkled with lime for sanitation, water was provided for all.  Professors from Harvard university were studying how the Indians managed to safety organise such a large gathering of people without resulting in total chaos.

The American writer Mark Twain who visited the festival in 1895 wrote of it  'It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites'    

At first the presence of a large black dog in our camp caused some small consternation and whispered discussion.  Some said a black dog was a bad omen at this time.  Some misfortune that happen when a railway bridge collapsed causing fatalities was blamed on the dog by one overly anti-canine Sadhu.  

I  watched Kailash as he took the whole scene in calmly, never losing the plot, never growling, only sometimes he would run off to follow some other dog.  When our group of sadhu's wandered to other camps to join other Sadhu's for chai and chillum, Kailash would sit by our sides or even go to the head of the Dunhi, the chief sadhu and sit nobely beside him.  Over time some of the sadhu's started to admire the dog, some suggested that he was actually the soul re-incarnate of some old Guru.  Kailash took it all in his stride.  The Sadhu's began to include him in the daily rituals, applying the orange mark to his forehead like everyone else.  Gradually Kailash's fame began to spread and some sadhu's actively sought him out, Kailash obliged and would sit at the head of the Dunhi so regally that even I began to regard him as a higher soul.... it was at that point I wonder about my own sanity and the sanity of everyone else but I went with the flow, there wasn't much else I could do.

When the time came for the holy wash in the river and thousands went towards the confluence in procession Kailash also came, he stayed by his masters side, unleashed and entered the river of his own accord like everyone else.  Such a beautiful dog, such a beautiful soul.  Kailash R.I.P.  Bom Bom Bholenath!


his video is of the arrival of the Sadhus and Charlie Baba with Kailash into the city of Allahabad