Everything You Need To Know About Kumbh Mela
The stars have aligned, and in no time, the trumpets of spirituality will take over every mind. It’s that time of the Hindu calendar yet again when Sages and pilgrims will come together in infinite numbers to bathe in the divine pool of spirituality. Its name itself is enough to stimulate vibrations within your being. Yes, it’s the Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims.
From Naga Sadhus to Peshwai and Chariots, this festivity has everything plated for a great spiritual appetite. Do you fancy its fervor too? Then, we have much information on this holy festival rolled up in our sleeves. So, why waste time? Let’s shower you with all the knowledge on this fiesta, shall we?
KUMBH MELA GATHERING: A LITTLE INSIGHT ON THE FESTIVAL
Kumbh Mela, the largest foreground of faith and spirituality, is one of the most celebrated events of Hinduism. Tens of millions turn up to be a part of this auspicious event, and why not? It is believed to wash away the sins of the present and past life after all. Still, uniquely enough, this fair has turned into this brilliant social, religious, and cultural hub that no one in their sane mind can say no to. It’s the perfect medley of peace and chaos, and whoever has visited it in the past will back us up here.
How Many Times Has The Kumbh Mela Occurred In 12 Years?
Kumbh Mela is celebrated four times over 12 years. If you do the math right, it’s once every three years. Then, why complicate and mention 12 years, you ask? That’s because even the number 12 has a mythological significance, but we will come to that a little later, don’t worry, we will. For now, it’s for you to understand that the geographical location of this festival keeps on rotating every third year. And guess what? The stars and the planets define the location of the festival. No, we aren’t joking! It’s a hundred percent true.
For every site mentioned below, the placement of these celestial bodies is different, ensuring it is unique and the holiest of all the affairs in the religion. With a little help from the art of astronomy, the cosmic universe defines the occurrence of this fair, so the chances for it not to be amazing are quite less.
Here, on these four banks, Kumbh Mela Fair takes place:
- The Ganges at Haridwar in Uttarakhand
- The Shipra at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh
- The Godavari in Maharashtra
- At the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Sarasvati at Prayagraj (Formerly Allahabad) in Uttar Pradesh.
How Many Types Of Kumbh Mela Are There?
Okay, this one will confuse you, so stay put. According to Hindu mythology, the four major Kumbh Melas include
- Kumbh Mela, which is held every third year in each of the four places mentioned above.
- Ardh Kumbh Mela takes place every 6th year in rotation between Haridwar and Prayagraj.
- Purna Kumbh Mela happens every 12th year at four Kumbh Mela sites.
- Maha Kumbh Mela occurs every 144 years after completing the 12 Purna Mela.
If you are still confused about it, don’t worry. You will be able to catch up with us by the end of this article.
WHY IS KUMBH MELA IMPORTANT? WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT?
The uniqueness of the Kumbh fair lies in its celebration and deep connection with its religious roots. During this time, the magnificence of Hinduism is put out into the universe. Be it with the sights of the Naga Sadhus bathing in the Shahi Snan, or for that matter, with the procession of Akharas on elephant back, horseback, and even chariots. Every direction is filled with soul-pleasing pleasures, and if you are lucky enough, you will have an encounter with the Hermits. Who are they? They are monks who become a part of the civilization only during this time in years. For the rest of their lives, they live in caves.
Ardh Kumbh is a step up from the Kumbh Mela, which takes place every three years.
Here, you will see the hustle and bustle of chiming devotees, wanting to take patronage under the knowledgeable sages while participating in all the rites. Still, the star of this fair is the holy bath in the sacred River Ganges. Believe us; there is no better way to experience the spiritual vibrations of India than drenching yourself in the country’s tranquil waters. It can make you forget all the suffering and sorrows. And who wouldn’t want that?
KUMBH MELA – ITS MEANING
Getting down to the basics! Also, a big shout-out to the Sanskrit roots of the country from where Kumbh’s meaning comes.
Kumbh is derived from the word Kumbhak which means a sacred container filled with the elixir of immortality. You will be surprised to know that the word Kumbh is also mentioned in various Hindu manuscripts. If you follow them, you must know that this word is mostly associated with bathing in the holy waters. Ahah! See, we told you it would all make sense in the end.
The Vedas of Hinduism contains prayers for the Kumbh. Hmm! Its relevance with Hinduism is quite a deal, don’t you think? The answer is obvious. Also, just to bring to your notice, it’s the beginning, much more exciting information is coming your way.
MYTHOLOGICAL ASPECT OF KUMBH MELA FAIR IN INDIA
The mention of the fair’s origin lies in the transcript written by an 8th Century philosopher, Shankara. Except that there is no concrete evidence of its origin or, for that matter, its existence in the yesteryears. But behind the cloak of debates and misconceptions, the mythology related to this festival travels slowly. Also, it does that so eminently that it eventually leaves room for confusion.
Disclaimer! It will be a crazy roller coaster ride, so buckle up, maybe?
According to the Bhagwat Purana (a compilation of ancient legend), there was a time when heaven was deprived of the Amrit (the nectar of immortality). Taking advantage of the situation, the Asuras (malevolent beings) tried taking over the universe. To save the universe from this calamity, Lord Vishnu advised the Devas (Demigods) to handle the Asuras diplomatically. Following the suggestion of the Lord of Lords, Devas approached Asuras for an alliance to get back the nectar of immortality from the Ocean of milk. To do so, they had to churn the ocean with a huge mountain and use the snake king as the rope.
Finally, when the Amrit came up in a sacred pitcher (Kumbh), the Asuras tried claiming it. In the process, Garud ( a bird-like creature and vehicle of Lord Vishnu) flew away with the Kumbh. While ascending towards heaven, he dropped four drops of it on Earth. Can you guess where? Yes! You got it right, the same places where Kumbh Mela celebrations occur today. Furthermore, the flight took 12 holy days, equivalent to 12 years in human time. So, did you get the 12-year concept now?
Also, the Rig Veda (one of the five holy transcriptions) mentions Kumbh in one of its verses. It talks about Kumbh in relevance with the bath in the Holy waters. According to it, bathing in the holy waters or, for that matter, in the confluence ( Sangam) of the holy rivers at the Kumbh Mela eliminates negative influences in life. It also states that a bath in these Holy waters is much suggested to rejuvenate the mind and soul.
HISTORY OF KUMBH MELA
When Did Kumbh Mela Start?
Unfortunately, there is no certain date or year in the archive of Indian history that can give us this information. However, the golden pages do mumble the name of King Harshvardhan whenever someone talks about Kumbh. Are you wondering why? Well, that’s because it was during his reign (590-647 CE) that the Kumbh Mela became a household name in many geographies.
Famous Chinese traveler Hsuan Tsang also mentions such a festival in his travelogue, where he writes about its grandeur. Still, the information on whether he talks about the Kumbh or not is quite debatable among scholars. The text mentions prayers by the banks of holy rivers and festivities involving a swarm of people (even from outside the territory).
The Kumbh Dictionary
The gems of Akharas and the purest souls of Hinduism, Naga Sadhus, are the real deal to come across in Kumbh Mela. These sages have their name written in history for their courage and bravery. As gods’ representatives, Nagas generally live with the Akharas or in the Himalayas. It takes 20-30 years of devotion to become a Naga Sadhu. That is why they are the first ones allowed to take a bath in the holy waters for everyone else to benefit from their good deeds.
How to spot them, you ask? Naga Sadhus generally don’t wear any clothes, and you will find them with a little saffron cloth and ash on the body. Other than that, you will find them wearing rudraksha and carrying their tress while dancing joyfully to the songs of the divine.
Meet the nomadic monks who live by the principle of the uncertainty of life. These monks, called Aghoris, are the Shaiva Sadus who engage in post-mortem rituals, cannibalism, and other similar rites. They give up on all their earthly possessions, bathe in the Ganges and cover themselves with ash. Why? Well, to pay homage to the last ritual on the material body. These sages are believed to have invincible healing powers and are known for dedicating their lives to Tapasya.
Being Shaiva Sadhus Aghoris have undying faith in the destroyer Lord Shiva. They follow two principles:
- 1. Shiva is perfect as he possesses omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence.
- 2. Shiva is responsible for everything that occurs. The conditions, causes, and effects are all created by him. So, everything that exists in its true form is perfect. Also, to deny the perfection of anything would be to deny the sacredness of all life and defy the almighty.
Aghori Mostly Remain Silent and live a life of a nomad. They believe they have no one in this world. When they take an oath to become Aghoris, they consider the sky as their father and the land as their mother. Other than the two entities, they have no relationship with anyone else. Locating Aghoris is quite a deal in Kumbh Mela; you’d be lucky to catch a glimpse of them as they stay away from the holy waters during this time because of their practices.
Kalpvasis are the people who live by the banks of the Ganges and follow Kalpvasa. These are another group of pilgrims or saints who spend 40 days (the Kumbh period) meditating and in Tapasya. They practice austerities to get the most out of their time in Kumbh and live in tents nearby.
Note: If you are planning to be in the patronage of true Sages, then it’s best to get a few things straight. True Sadhus prefer seclusion; they are free from the world’s materialism, so Kumbh is the only way you can get to know them. They will be in hiding, and you will only see them during Shahi Snans or at Akhara meets. So, if someone approaches you calling themselves a Sadhu or God, don’t believe them. They can scam you.
RITUALS OF KUMBH
AARTI: Paying Homage To The Life Source.
One of the significant rituals of Kumbhs is evening prayers or aartis. According to Hinduism, it’s essential for humans to resonate with Mother Nature and treat her with the utmost respect. So, by the same token, these aartis are enunciated to preach to the Goddess Ganga and thank her for caring for the community.
These aartis paint the scenery of a thousand yellow stars dancing to the hymns of the priests. Flabbergasting as it is, the sight can bring joy to anyone, and you’ll get what we are saying once you get there.
SNAN: Soaking In Serenity,
Kumbh is all about the Shahi Snan that washes away your sins and liberates you and your family from the vicious circle of life and death. Consequently, taking a dip in the holy water, which is supposed to be the nectar of immortality, is an experience on its own.
This next ritual on our list is quite a toughie, but if you manage to survive through its strict rules, getting additional benefits on your Kumbh Mela trip will be an understatement.
Kalpavas holds a new level of significance at the holy confluence in Prayag. This ritual which stretches from Ekadashi of the full moon in the Paush month (Hindu Calendar month) up to ‘Maghi Ekadashi’, is one big task. It is during this time span a Kalpvasi has to follow the strict 21 rules through mind, speech, and action. Although it isn’t child’s play to follow the rules and participate in Kalpavas. You know, you can always try, isn’t it? Even if you don’t want to, observing people who are following it (the Kalpvasis) will be one great experience to share, don’t you think?
The 21 rules are
- You will always have to speak the truth.
- Follow Nonviolence. Stay calm always, and don’t let your demons lose free.
- Understand the bad actions of others and always reason before concluding. Mitigate your senses!
- Feel the same way for all living beings
- Have no sexual relationships; your devotion should be towards the environment and Lord.
- Let nothing come your way. Reject all indulgence in the materialistic world.
- Rise before sunrise. Start your day as nature does.
- Bathing a day thrice.
- Observance of ‘Trikal Sandhya’.
- Pay tribute to the peace of your ancestors by performing ‘Pind Daan’.
- Donate whatever pleases your pocket. Let no materialism surround you.
- Enunciate the name of God always at the back of your mind. Don’t think of anything else but God.
- Associate with a true divine being. Listen to their righteous mind and follow their sayings at Satsangs.
- Shetra Sanyas ( non-violation of reserved space),
- Say no to criticism. Let it go!
- Offer services to ascetics and saints, you will earn extra brownie points for that.
- Japa- Meditative repetition of the name of the divine and, this time out loud.
- Sankirtan- Give in your all to the prayers of the divine.
- Eat only once a day.
- Sleep on the ground closer to Mother Earth.
- Maintain distance from envy and anger.
Deep Daan holds utmost importance at a certain time of the year. At other times, it’s the perfect emblem of the win of good over evil. This particular ceremony outshines the trip and that too literally. Watching these floating lanterns while listening to the sounds of the gushing waters is one big delight for any heart.
KUMBH MELA GUIDE: THE DO’S AND DON’T’S
- Avoid over-packing. Taking tons of luggage that you will just drag around the place when everyone else is enjoying will be the last thing you will want to do there. So, pack light but in the heat of the moment don’t forget to pack your essentials including medicines.
- Avoid packing valuables; if you are carrying them, take utmost care of them. It’s such a huge gathering, and you never know other people’s intentions.
- Avoid eating anything from strangers or at an unauthorized place. A humongous gathering like this can lead to crimes too. Furthermore, an upset stomach is something that you will not want. So stay safe, okay?
- Research well for the facilities provided. Check services like Hospitals, Food, Emergency Services, etc. Health is wealth, remember?
- Stay low-key and enjoy to the fullest is the mantra of Kumbh Mela. So, don’t attract unnecessary conflicts by provoking peers.
- Going for a dip in the divine river? Then try using only the Bathing areas/ Ghats that the Mela administration authorizes. Also, habitually use the Bathing Ghats nearest to the place you are staying or the city for a safe and sound experience.
- Keep your emergency contact numbers handy. You may not need them, but precautions are better than cure, isn’t it?
- Lost someone or something? Use Lost and Found Centres, trust us, they are always happy to help.
- While bathing in the river, try not to cross the permissible limits. Although safety measures are taken by the government, you, too, will need to be careful. 9. So, keep it in mind.
- Usage of any pollutants like the Pujan Samagri (offerings to the deities) and any soaping material is not appreciated near the river. So avoid it at any cost.
- If you are a plastic bag lover, then say bye to them as soon as you step into this city because their usage is completely prohibited here during the Mela.
Which City Is Famous For Kumbh Mela? Which City Is Famous For Kumbh Mela In India?
Although all four cities mentioned above are famous for Kumbh Mela. Uniquely, as the Maha Kumbh takes place every 144 years in Prayagraj, you can consider it to be the most famous one.
How Long Does Kumbh Mela Last?
It really depends on where and what kind of a Kumbh Mela is making its way on the calendar. For example, the Ardh Kumbh Mela in 2019 stretched from January to mid-March (2 and a half months). On the contrary, the last Maha Kumbh Mela that took place in 2013 at Prayagraj lasted for only a month. So, it just depends on the Hindu calendar but yes, it does span for a month.
When Did Kumbh Mela Start?
The origin of Kumbh is still unknown but its timeline is set during the Pre-Vedic period.
When Was The Last Maha Kumbh Mela Held?
The last Maha Kumbh was held in Prayagraj (Allahabad) in 2013.
When Is The Next Kumbh Mela?
2025– Purna Kumbh Mela in Allahabad
2027– Kumbh Mela in Nashik