Kumbh Mela - Everything You Need To Know About The World's Largest Religious Gathering

The Kumbh Mela also known as The Festival Of The Sacred Pitcher has its origin in the Hindu mythology. It is the largest gathering of people and collective action of faith in the world. The congregation consists of ascetics, saints, sadhus, sadhvis, kalpvasis, and pilgrims from all over the world. It is believed that approximately ten million pilgrims come to bathe at the holy confluence on the three rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati for 48 days.

Kumbh Mela - When & Where

Shahi Snan in Hari Ki Pauri
Shahi Snan in Hari Ki Pauri
Source

Kumbh Mela in Hinduism is a pilgrimage that is celebrated four times for 12 years. The location of the Mela also keeps rotating between four pilgrimages namely:
Kumbh Mela in Haridwar on the Ganges in Uttarakhand
Kumbh Mela in Ujjain on the Shipra River in Madhya Pradesh
Kumbh Mela in Nashik on the Godavari River  in Maharashtra
Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj at the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati in Uttar Pradesh.

Each site is chosen as per the astrological positions of the Sun, the Moon and the Jupiter. The mela is held at the exact time when these three positions are fully occupied, and it is the holiest time in Hinduism.

Types of Kumbh Mela

Bathing ghat on the Ganges
Bathing ghat on the Ganges
Source

There are five types of Kumbh Melas which are held in India:

Maha Kumbh Mela
This is considered to be held once in the lifetime of the Hindus. It comes once in every 144 years after 12 Purna Kumbh Melas. Maha Kumbh is held only in Prayagraj. It was last held in 2013 and now will be held 144 years later. It is believed that taking a dip in the Ganges during Maha Kumbh; one can relieve themselves and their ancestors back to the eighty-eighth generations from all evils and sins.

Purna Kumbh Mela
This is held after every 12 years in Allahabad. Millions of devotees take a bath in the Ganges during this fair.

Ardh Kumbh
Ardh Kumbh is celebrated after every six years and marks the halfway between the celebrations of Purna Kumbh which is celebrated every 12 years. It is held only in Allahabad and Haridwar.

Kumbh Mela
Kumbh Mela is held in 4 different places-Ujjain, Nashik, Prayagraj, and Haridwar. The astrological positions of the Sun and Jupiter decide in which city the mela would be held.

Magh (Kumbh Mela)
The Magh Mela is of utmost importance for the Hindus because they link the origin of the Magh Mela with the creation of the universe. This mela is held every year on the Triveni Sangam (confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the mystical Saraswati). It is organized in the Magh month of the Hindu Calendar.

History of Kumbh Mela - Mythological Significance

Kumbh Mela in 2001
Kumbh Mela in 2001
Source

Shankara, the 8th-century philosopher, transcribed the origin of the Kumbh Mela. The founding myth recounts how Gods and Demons fought over Kumbh (the sacred pitcher) of Amrit (potion of immortality) called the Ratana of Samudra Manthan. It is believed that Lord Vishnu disguised as Mohini, the enchantress took Kumbh from the clutches of the demons. As he was taking it towards the heaven, drops fell on the four sites where today Kumbh is celebrated namely, Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik, and Prayagraj. Lord Vishnu's flight is believed to have lasted for 12 divine days which is equivalent to 12 human years and hence the Mela is celebrated every 12 years, staggered at each of the four sacred sites in the cycle.
There is also a mention of Kumbh and the bathing ritual in the Rig Veda. It talks about the advantages of bathing in Sangam during this period which includes the negation of negativity and rejuvenation of the mind, body, and soul.

It is also believed that Prajapati Brahma performed the Ashvamedha Yajna at the Dashashvamedha Ghat situated at the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna and created the universe due to which Kumbh at Prayagraj is the most significant of all the Kumbh festivals.

Astrological and Social Significance 

Kumbh Mela - Allahabad
Kumbh Mela - Allahabad
Source

The Samudra Manthan Tale is referred to the Astrological significance of the festival when Lord Vishnu took 12 divine days to reach the heavens. Every twelfth year when Jupiter enters the Aries constellation on the day of the new moon in the month of Magh, as per the Hindu Calendar, Kumbh is celebrated.

The event of Kumbh takes place in the four destinations as per the following astrological positions-
When Jupiter moves into the Aquarius constellation and the Sun to the Aries constellation, Kumbh is held in Haridwar.
When Jupiter moves into Leo, it is held at Nashik.
When Jupiter enters Leo and Sun enters Aries, Kumbh takes place in Ujjain.
When Sun is in Capricorn and Jupiter in Taurus, the Kumbh Mela is in Prayagraj.

The social significance of the Kumbh Mela lies in the fact that it is the only event of the world which requires no invitation, and yet millions of pilgrims come for this mega event. Kumbh Mela also gives forth a social message which is of the welfare of all human beings, sharing of noble thoughts and maintaining and strengthening of relationships. The chanting of mantras, holy elucidations, traditional dances, devotional songs, and mythical stories bring the people together thus reflecting Kumbh's social significance.

Kumbh Mela - Importance of the Rituals

Kumbh Mela at Night
Kumbh Mela at Night
Source

The Kumbh Mela is an amalgamation of the science of astronomy, astrology, spirituality, traditions, rituals and socio-cultural practices, making it one of the richest festivals in knowledge.
During the Mela, various ceremonies take place, like the traditional procession of Akharas, called Peshwai on horses, chariots and elephant backs, the show of shining swords and rituals of Naga Sadhus during the Shani Snaan each of which symbolizes something or some virtue.
The importance of Kumbh is reflected in the fact that it brings together many factors such as the confluence of all the cultures, spirituality, humanity, the essence of life and the binding energies. It also signifies the flow of rivers and forests, the relationship between nature and human life and shows the path of enlightenment.

Rituals of The Kumbh Mela

Aarti

Ganga Aart during Maha Kumbh Mela
Ganga Aart during Maha Kumbh Mela
Source

In Hinduism, the humans demonstrate their gratitude and devotion to rivers by Aarti on the riverbanks. Grand arrangements are made for these Aartis in which thousands of people participate with tremendous faith and zeal. The aarti is performed in the mornings and evenings in which Batuks (priests) chant hymns, holding magnificent lamps.

Kalpavas
Kalpavas at the confluence of the rivers is regarded to be sacred. The period of Kalpvas is from the Ekadashi of the full moon in the Magh month up to Maghi Ekadashi. There are a set of 21 rules which a Kalpvas has to observe like celibacy, truthfulness, non-violence, renunciation of all wordy pleasures and a whole list of Brahmachari rules.

Deep Daan
Meaning of Deep Daan is to offer earthen lamps at a specific place like rivers, forests, temple and other sacred places with the aim of spreading spirituality. It is one of the most mesmerizing scenes at the Kumbh.

Snan
Holy Bath at Nasik
Holy Bath at Nasik
Source

The most significant ritual performed at the Kumbh is the San or the holy bath. People take dips in the holy water with the belief that they would be redeemed of all their sins and also relieved from the cycle of birth and death and attain Moksha. Along with bathing in the river, people worship on the banks and have discoursed with the priests. There are processions of saints, and their disciples and members of Akharas(religious orders) take part in the Shahi Snan also known as Rajyogi Sean at the start of the Kumbh. Although taking baths on all days of the Kumbh is considered holy, there are some special days when it is incredibly mesmerizing.

Prayagraj Panchkoshi Parikrama
The changing times have had an impact on the nature of the Kumbh Mela. The rituals of ?parikrama? have seen the direct impact of the changes that have taken place. Parikramas (circumambulation) is an essential part of Kumbh since the very beginning.

Attractions at The Kumbh Mela

Akharas and Sadhus
Sadhus and Akharas
Sadhus and Akharas
Source

Akhara is the place for a religious meeting where sadhus carry out rituals. The saints are known to be followers of Lord Shiva and Vishnu. Some of them are a bare body while others are dressed in saffron. It is a beautiful opportunity to visit these Akharas and learn about religious groups and capture the unique practices in your lenses.

Satsangs
Satsangs are an integral part of Kumbh. Devotees sit for hours listening to devotional hymns and prayers. There are discourses on Hinduism too which are exciting and enriching.

Late Night Experience
Night at Haridwar
Night at Haridwar
Source

The city of Allahabad does not sleep during Kumbh. The pleasant view of the river with a gentle breeze and the mystical ghats are a lifetime experience, and one should not miss it.

Camp Life
Staying in camps during Kumbh is another lifetime experience which gives excellent memories to cherish forever. Camps are set up for Sadhus and people who wish to stay near the bathing area. Living in tents allows one to interact with people from all cultures and faiths and at times gives a new perspective on life.

Food
The mouthwatering Langars (communal meals ) and Prasad (sacred offerings) are given to all devotees. It is incredibly delicious and a major attraction of Kumbh.

Thus, the greatness of the Kumbh is reflected in the chanting of mantras, shahi snans of akharas, the brilliance of the earthen lamps and the history that is associated with it. The hearts of devotees are filled with joy and exultation whenever they visit the Kumbh Mela.

Know more about the Kumbh Mela 2019

This post was published by Holidify.com

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