The largest religious festival in India which attracts millions of people from all over the world, and where people take a dip in the divine water is the Kumbh Mela.
Kumbh Mela is the religious festival that is celebrated four times over the course of 12 years. The site of the observance rotates around four pilgrimage places on four sacred rivers—
- at Haridwar on the Ganges River,
- at Ujjain on the Shipra,
- at Nashik on the Godavari and
- at Prayag (modern Allahabad) at the confluence of the Ganges, the Jamuna, and the mythical Sarasvati.
Each site’s celebration is based on a distinct set of astrological positions of the Sun, the Moon, and Jupiter, the holiest time occurring at the exact moment when these positions are fully occupied. The Kumbh Mela at Prayag, in particular, attracts millions of pilgrims. In addition, a Great Kumbh Mela festival is held every 144 years at Prayag; the 2001 festival attracted some 60 million people.
Who will attend??
Attendees at the Kumbh Mela come from all sections of Hindu religious life, ranging from sadhus (holy men), who remain naked year-round or practice the most severe physical discipline, to hermits, who leave their isolation only for these pilgrimages. The religious organizations represented range from social welfare societies to political lobbyists. Vast crowds of disciples, friends, and spectators join the individual ascetics and organizations. The naga akhadas, militant ascetic orders whose members formerly made their livings as mercenary soldiers and traders, often claim the holiest spots at each Kumbh Mela’s most propitious moment. Although the Indian government now enforces an established bathing order, history records bloody disputes between groups vying for precedence.
According to the Puranas..
Tradition ascribes the Kumbh Mela’s origin to the 8th-century philosopher Shankara, who instituted regular gatherings of learned ascetics for discussion and debate. The founding myth of the Kumbh Mela—attributed to the Puranas (collections of myth and legend)—recounts how the gods and demons fought over the pot (kumbha) of amrita, the elixir of immortality produced by their joint churning of the milky ocean. During the struggle, drops of the elixir fell on the Kumbh Mela’s four earthly sites, and the rivers are believed to turn back into that primordial nectar at the climactic moment of each, giving pilgrims the chance to bathe in the essence of purity, auspiciousness, and immortality. The term Kumbh comes from this mythic pot of elixir, but it is also the Hindi name for Aquarius, the sign of the zodiac in which Jupiter resides during the Haridwar Mela.
What does it teach to the present world??
- It teaches the meaning of humanity
The sea of humanity, the ocean of tents, the colourful flags, lakhs of pilgrims taking a dip in the water, the smell of the smoke from the holy fires, the beautiful sunrise all these will restore your love for humanity. You will realize that over population is not the problem of the world. It is our lack of tolerance. When you learn the secret of co-existence in the Kumbh, you carry it wherever you go and you become an embodiment of that same energy.
- It explains the power of water and wash away all the sins
According to the ancient stories and vedantas, when millions gather at the Kumbh, their devotion turns the very water into Amrit – the nectar of immortality. Having a dip in this water literally cleanses all your sins. Sins are incomplete ideas that you store in your system due to the lack of energy to look into them. The energy field of the kumbh will literally blast them away – like the Ganga flowing into a small stagnant pond!
- To find yourself and adjust with your surroundings
Here is a quotation by Jack Hebner from his book on the 1990 Kumbha Mela “The very foundation of my conception of life, the reality in which I lived, was shaken at its root. I was forced by circumstances to find a new identity within myself and adopt a completely new value system. My western values were not enough to deal with the profoundity of the Kumbh Mela. What ensued was an unforgettable experience and a true understanding of the Kumbh Mela. I began to understand why millions of people attend the Kumbh Mela and I began to imbibe an inkling of their faith”. I think this quote tells it all.
- Meet the mystics and get thrilled by their miracles
In the Kumbh you can see many Sadhus performing seemingly impossible tasks of endurance during their Tapas. You will meet one or more on every street corner. Sadhus who have stood on one leg for decades; those who can stay under water for hours; who can read your mind; pull trucks with their genitals; who stay buried in the sand upside down – for the whole duration of the Kumbh! and so on and so forth. And if you know where to look, and how to look, you can experience true miracles and spiritual powers – called as Siddhis – as opposed to feats of endurance or sleight of hand tricks that you are used to. And maybe some of them may even initiate you in to these powers if you are lucky!
The next Kumbh is going to be held at Prayag. It is called the “Ardh Kumbh Mela”, held for every six years. So, make plans for the Kumbh, enjoy, have fun, make memories and cherish them through out your life…Because… The Kumbh is a real treasure trove for people who seek more than the ordinary in their lives.