The Kumbh Mela

Kumbh Mela in Hinduism is celebrated four times every 12 years, the site of the observance rotating between four pilgrimage places on four sacred rivers: at Haridwar on the Ganges River, at Ujjain on the Shipra, at Nasik on the Godavari, and at Prayag (Allahabad) at the confluence of the Ganges, Jamuna (popularly known as Yamuna), and the mythical River Sarasvati.

MahaKumbhMela

Origin of Kumbh Mela

 The exact origin of the Kumbh Mela is very hard to pinpoint.  The fair is a primitive one and the reason it is held can be traced back to the ancient episode of ‘Sagar Manthan’ or ‘Churning of the Ocean’ that is described in the ancient Vedic text of “Çrémad-Bhägavatam“. Kumbh Mela derives its name from the immortal – Pot of Nectar – described in ancient Vedic scriptures known as the Puranas.

History of Kumbh Mela

The beginning of Kumbh Mela when Gods (Devtas) and Demons (Asura) resided on earth. Devtas were under the influence of a curse which aroused fear in them eventually making them weak and coward. Brahma (the creator) advised them to churn the milky ocean to obtain the elixir of immortality. Devtas asked the help of demons for this sturdy task to complete with mutual agreement of sharing the elixir of immortality equally. They churned the ocean for 1000 years, where demons were holding Vasuki’s head and Gods were holding its tail.

Finally after this entire churning process, Dhanwantari appeared with Kumbh in his palms. To prevent the amrita (elixir of immortality) from demons, its safety was entrusted to Gods Brahaspati, Surya, Shani and Chandra. After learning the conspiracy of the Devtas, demons turned vicious and attacked them. Devtas knew that demons possessed more power and can easily defeat them. The Devtas ran away with the Kumbh to hide it away and they were chased by Asuras. For 12 days and 12 nights the Gods were chased by Demons for the possession of Amrita. These 12 days of Gods are equivalent to 12 years of Humans. During this chase for the elixir of immortality the drops from Kumbh fell at four places –Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik.  

It is not exactly known since when did people begin to hold Kumbh Mela; it is widely known how this spectacle of faith has attracted the curiosity of foreigners across the world. The famous Chinese traveler Hiuen-Tsang  (602 – 664 A.D.) who visited India in 629 -645 CE, during the reign of King Harshavardhana, was probably the first person to mention Kumbh Mela in his diary.

In the 8th century, the great Indian saint Shankara popularized the Kumbh Mela among the common people. With each passing year the fair began to be attended by more and more people.

By 1977, the number of pilgrims attending Kumbh Mela had grown to a record 15 million! By 1989, the attendance was approximately 29 million!! Today, more than 60 million people is said to attend the Maha Kumbh Mela, making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world.
 
Five Types of Kumbh Melas• Maha Kumbh Mela – occurring every 144 years – only in Allahabad.
• Purna Kumbh Mela – after every 12 years – last one took place in January 2001 in Allahabad.
• Ardh Kumbh – 6th year after Kumbh Mela.
• Kumbh Mela – every 3rd years, rotating through Prayag, Nasik, Haridwar and Ujjain.
• Magh Mela – Annual, held every year except years of Kumbh Mela and Ardh Kumbh Mela Held in Magh (Jan-Feb); hence the name. Only in Allahabad.
 
Recent Kumbhmelas• In 2001,Kumbh Mela was held in Allahabad. It is estimated that about 60 million people took a bath in the river Ganges.
• The 2003Kumbh Mela was held in Nasik, India from 27th July to 7th September.
• In 2007 more than 30 million people visited Ardha Kumbh Mela at Prayag in allahabad.
• In 2010 Kumbh Mela was held in Haridwar. Millions of Hindu pilgrims attended the Mela.

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