It is the power of faith that can part a river, move mountains, and endure the hardships that come bundled up for being an integral part of Kumbha Mela, a congregation of millions, gathered together to be freed from the vicious earthly cycle of life and death and move towards a heavenly realm, which knows no suffering or pain. It’s the mythological history of India and the sacred religious texts that bind us carnal souls to an eternal hope – things will be better, without the ever-imminent fear of them getting worse that cripples us here. “An eternal life free of sins” is the promise that comes attached with the magnificent event of Kumbha Mela. It’s a promise to which millions want to be bound with, and it is this promise that has made Kumbha Mela what it is today.
Legend has it that in the mythological times, during a waging war between the demigods and demons for the possession of elixir of eternal life, a few drops of it had fallen on to four places that are today known as Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik. It is believed that these drops gave mystical powers to these places. It is to make oneself gain on those powers that Kumbha Mela has been celebrated in each of the four places since long as one can remember. The normal Kumbha Mela is held every three years, the Ardh (half) Kumbha Mela is held every six years at Haridwar and Allahabad (Prayag) while the Purna (complete) Kumbha mela takes place every twelve years, at four places Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik, based on planetary movements. The Maha Kumbha Mela is celebrated at Prayag after 144 years (after 12 ‘Purna Kumbha Melas’).
So what is Kumbha Mela? You may ask…
Kumbha Mela is a mass Hindu Pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred river. It is considered to be largest peaceful gathering in the world with over 100 million people visiting during the Maha Kumbha Mela in 2013. It is held every third year at one of the four places by rotation: Haridwar, Allahabad (Prayaga), Nashik and Ujjain. Thus the Kumbha Mela is held at each of these four places every twelfth year.
Ardha (“Half”) Kumbha Mela is held at only two places, Haridwar and Allahabad, every sixth year. The rivers at these four places are: the Ganges (Ganga) at Haridwar, the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganges and the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati at Allahabad, the Godwari at Nashik, and the Shipra at Ujjain.
The name Kumbha Mela comes from Devanagiri ~ Sanskrit and other Indian languages it is more often known as Kumbh Mela. Kumbha means a pitcher and Mela means fair in Sanskrit. The pilgrimage is held for about one and a half months at each of these four places where it is believed in Hinduism that drops of nectar fell from the kumbha carried by gods after the sea was churned. The festival is billed as the “world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims”.There is no scientific method of ascertaining the number of pilgrims, and the estimates of the number of pilgrims bathing on the most auspicious day may vary; approximately 80 million people attended on 14 February 2013.
Mauni Amavasya traditionally attracted the largest crowds at the mela, held here every 12 years. The current Kumbha Mela was held on 14 January 2013 at Allahabad. The day marked the second and the biggest Shahi Snanam (royal bath) of this event, with 13 akharas taking to the Sangam. 10 Feb 2013 was the biggest bathing day at the ongoing Maha Kumbha Mela and probably the largest human gathering in a single day. Over 30 million devotees and ascetics took holy dip on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya.