Maha Kumbha Mela

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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.

Many saints and sages who are in their Sanyasam stage of Hindu life will be seen at these gatherings.

Many saints and sages who are in their Sanyasam stage of Hindu life will be seen at these gatherings.

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’).

Photo credits: hinduexistence.org

Photo credits: hinduexistence.org

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.

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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.

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History of Kumbha Mela

Kumbha derives its name from the immortal Pot of Nectar, which the Demigods (Devtas) and Demons (Asuras) fought over, described in ancient Vedic scriptures known as the Puranas. It is these Vedic literatures that have stood the test of time, out of which the tradition has evolved into the one that the world now knows as The Kumbha Mela. Legend tells a tale from the bygone days of the universe when the demigods and the demons conjointly produced the nectar of immortality. The demigods, because cursed, were crippled of fear that eventually made them weak. The task being too sturdy for them alone, the demigods made a mutual agreement with the demons to complete it in full and share the nectar of immortality in half. It is said that the demigods and the demons assembled on the shore of the milk ocean that lies in the celestial region of the cosmos. And it began!
1For the task of churning the milk ocean, the Mandara Mountain was used as the churning rod, and Vasuki, the king of serpents, became the rope for churning. With the demigods at Vasuki’s tail and the demons at his head, the churning began. At first, the churning of the milk ocean produced a deadly poison which Lord Shiva drank without being affected. As Lord Shiva drank the poison, a few drops fell from his hands which were licked by scorpions, snakes, and similar other deadly creatures. Also, during the churning, the Mandara Mountain began to sink deep into the ocean, seeing which Lord Vishnu incarnated as a great tortoise and supported the mountain on His back. Finally, many hurdles and 1000 years later, Dhanwantari appeared with the Kumbha of immortal nectar in his hands. The demigods, being fearful of the demons’ ill intent, forcibly seized the pot with its safety entrusted onto the four Gods – Brahaspati, Surya, Shani, and Chandra.
3Demons, after learning that their part of the agreement has not been kept, went after the demigods and for 12 days and 12 nights, the chase continued. Wherever the demigods went with the pot of nectar, fierce fighting ensued. It is believed that during this chase, a few drops from the Kumbha fell at four places – Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik. There is also a prevalent legend that it was actually the demons that were being chased by the demigods for 12 days and 12 nights, during which the drops of elixir of immortality fell at these four places. These four places are since believed to have acquired mystical powers. Because 12 days of Gods are equivalent to 12 years for humans; the Kumbha Mela is celebrated once every 12 years in each of the four places – banks of river Godavari in Nasik, river Kshipra in Ujjain, river Ganges in Haridwar, and at the Sangam of Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati in Allahabad, where the drops are believed to have fallen. Millions of devout, come together to partake in ritualistic bathing and ceremonies to cleanse themselves of all sins.
Source of info: Wikipedia, Kumbhmela.net
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