Kumbh Mela: The Soul’s Quest For An Eternal Union With God
A land where holy waters and sacred land come together, a place that draws millions of hearts from across the globe; where everybody is on a quest for liberation of the soul. Call it what you may – a festival, a celebration, a pilgrimage; the Kumbh Mela holds a special place in every heart that beats under the sky.
What Was The Biggest Gathering In Human History?
The Maha Kumbh Mela at Allahabad is known to be the largest religious gathering in the world that takes place only once in a cycle of 12 years. People from across India and the globe are drawn solely by faith to attend what is known as the “world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims”.
Over 30 million pilgrims were said to have visited the Maha Kumbh Mela at Allahabad on a single day – 10 February 2013. It was the day of Mauni Amavasya which is considered to be ‘the holiest of the holiest’ bathing day, according to the Hindu astrological calendar. During this day, the alignment of the sun, moon and Jupiter represent the same pattern as the day the when the birth of this festival took place. Read on to know all about the Kumbh Mela and its mystical history.
Where Is The Kumbh Mela Held?
The Kumbh Mela is celebrated four times in the span of 12 years, each ceremony taking places at 4 major pilgrimage places of India. The most important Kumbh Mela is held at Prayag (called Allahabad today) at the confluence (Sangam) of 3 sacred rivers – the Ganges, the Jamuna, and the invisible, yet mystical Sarasvati. The other 3 sites where Kumbh Mela is held are at Haridwar on River Ganges, Ujjain on the River Shipra and at Nashik on the River Godavari.
What Is The History Of The Kumbh Mela?
Kumbh Mela, recognised by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, has a history that dates back to thousands of years.
The story of the Samudra Manthan: Legend has it that the forces of good and the forces of evil churned the depths of the ocean together in a quest for a pot (kalasha) that contained the nectar of immortality (Amrit) and other rare jewels. Jayanta, the son of Indra hoped to save the Amrit for the forces of good and fled with the pot of Amrit. Noticing this, Shukracharya, the king of the forces of evil, sent demons to chase Jayanta.
According to Hindu mythology, a single day in the lives of the Gods is equivalent to a year of the mortal beings. Jayanta was on the run for 12 days in his attempt to save the Amrit from falling into the wrong hands. As he ran, the 4 lands where Jayanta had put down the Amrit Kalasha in these 12 years were Haridwar, Prayagraj (modern Allahabad), Nashik-Trimbakeshwar and Ujjain. The Amrit enriched the soils of these cities and bestowed on them divine healing properties. And the rivers that flow through the heart of these holy lands are believed to turn into nectar during the time of the Kumbh Mela.
What Is The Significance Of Kumbh Mela?
Kumbh means urn. It is believed that drops of Amrit from the urn had given mystical powers to the 4 places that it fell on to. The history behind the Kumbh Mela when both the forces of good and evil churned the ocean to find priceless items is symbolic to the churning deep into one’s own mind.
Also, a holy dip into sacred rivers during the Kumbh Mela eternally blesses mortal beings. The soul is cleansed of all sins and humans thus gain the mystical powers of the Amrit as their souls are detached from the infinite cycle of life and death, finally leading to an eternal union with God.
When Is The Kumbh Mela Held?
The normal Kumbh Mela is held every 3 years, the Ardh (half) Kumbh Mela is held every six years at Haridwar and the Purna (complete) Kumbh mela takes place at Allahabad (Prayag) every twelve years. The Maha Kumbh Mela is celebrated at Prayag after 144 years (after 12 ‘Purna Kumbh Melas’). The last Maha Kumbh was held in 2013 at Allahabad and the next will be held after 144 years.
The Kumbh Mela is held during the days when the waters of the sacred rivers are said to turn into the same nectar of immortality (Amrit) that was saved from the forces of evil as per Hindu Mythology.
The exact date of the Kumbh Mela is determined by the unique astrological alignment of the zodiac positions of Jupiter, the Sun and the Moon in the holy lands of Haridwar, Prayag (modern Allahabad), Nashik-Trimbakeshwar and Ujjain, respectively.
A Scientific Explanation To The Kumbh Mela
The Legend of Kumbh also finds scientific ratification with its cycle of 12 years closely mirroring the different stages of the sun spot cycle. The sun spot cycle has been known to enhance the electro-magnetic field (EMF) of the Earth and its atmosphere. This in turn influences the entire bio-system in a cyclic period of approximately 11.1 years. This phenomenon is said to have profound physiological effects on the human body. It is believed to inhibit the regulatory systems of the body including the nervous system, respiratory system, circulatory and endocrine systems much like what is experienced through meditation.
Why Attend The Kumbh Mela At Allahabad?
There are 2 main reasons behind why millions of pilgrims are drawn into the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad. While one reason is that one of the 4 drops from the pot of the nectar of immortality (Amrit Kalasha) fell onto Allahabad, and hence is blessed land; there is yet another reason which is considered the peak of the Hindu pilgrimage of Kumbh Mela – the bathing ritual.
According to Hindu Mythology, a space opens up between our world and the celestial/spiritual world at the point of the confluence (Sangam) of the sacred rivers of Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.
The Maha Kumbh Mela takes place every 12 years at the holy land of Allahabad by the confluence of 2 sacred rivers: the Yamuna and the Ganges. There is also a third river, the River Saraswati which is said to have converged here which is considered to be invisible now, having vanished long ago. A dip into these sacred rivers whilst chanting Vedic mantras is believed to help the soul step out of the Human body and attain a deeper meaning of life, death and immortal living.
Kumbh Mela At Allahabad – Highlight
Allahabad is the largest temporary city constructed to host worshippers. It is also known as “the largest pop-up city in the world” since the entire site of the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad is built over a white sandy plain that emerges out of the receding rivers of Ganges and Yamuna post monsoon. Over thousands of labourers create an instant metropolis, stretching over 20 miles to build a city that can accommodate over 30 million people at one go.
This man-made marvel is visible even from outer space. And to think, just a few months ago, the whole place was underwater; is it the power of faith or a supernatural creation, you’d never know.
Why Visit The Ardh Kumbh Mela 2019?
Understanding The Concept Of Kumbh Mela
A major driving force to the spiritual life of a Hindu is the inevitable cycle of life. It is believed that the mortal being are bound to an infinite cycle of living, dying and reincarnation. Each rebirth depends on the quality of the last life lived on Earth and thus brings back the soul in a new form in every life. Although, the ultimate purpose of life is to get closer to God by attaining a spiritual epitome.
According to Hinduism, human ash symbolises rebirth. And so, when it has been smeared on the body, it simply means that the person has been born again. Another major aspect of that enriches the soul is Karma. Devotees believe that good karma (good deeds) help the soul release itself from the continuous cycle of life, suffering and death to eventually unite with the divine. A pilgrimage to the Kumbh Mela strengthens the soul, adding to Karma so the human soul can reach a higher state of being.
Flames Of The Dark: The Ganga Aarti
The main ritual of the Kumbh Mela is the Snana, the holy bath in the Ganges which is considered both a river and goddess. There are many rituals performed prior to this which is believed to prepare the soul to attain its ultimate cause. One of Hinduisms most sacred ritual is the Ganga Aarti, the ceremony of lamps offered to a deity, River Ganges in this scenario.
The Ganga Aarti ceremony begins as large oil lamps are lit by sadhus who wave them in synchrony, chanting and singing hymns. Thousands of pilgrims gather to witness this spectacle of fire, smoke and water as the blowing of the Shanka (conch shell) fills the air. As the ceremony concludes, you will see thousands of lamps and flowers calmly floating away into the night.
For Those Seeking Answers: The Akharas
The four major categories that determines the sects of the sages at the Kumbh Mela are the Nagas (Sanyasis), Vairagi (Mundies), Udasi and Nirmala (Nanak Sahi). They are further organised into different ‘Akharas’. The Akharas assembled at the Kumbh Mela is regarded as the ‘world’s greatest theological symposium’. The sanyasis and sadhus gather under the respective banners of their Akhara for the entire duration of the Kumbh Mela.
Most pilgrims meet the sadhus (Darshan) looking for spiritual guidance to help them through various complexities of life. Their beliefs, theories, tilaks, rituals and traditions add to flavours of the mystical melting pot that is the Kumbh Mela.
Men Of Ashes: The Nagas
The Kumbh Mela is an occasion when various orders of Sadhus come out of their Himalayan caves only during this period of time to take a ritual bath in the holy Ganga. There exists a predetermined order to which various Akharas follow during the Shahi procession on the specific bathing days. The Nagas takes the lead and are followed down to the Sangam by all the other saints, sages and pilgrims gathered at the Kumbh Mela.
Nag means ‘naked’ and the Nag Babas are known to be the sages of the highest order. They are known to be blessed with the supernatural powers passed on by Lord Shiva – the God they dedicate their lives to. The Nagas reject the material world to lead an anonymous life of spirituality to practice austerity and self-denial. They believe that by pushing their bodies to its limits they push their minds further. The Nagas live a life of anonymity in the Himalayas with no cover to protect them from the extreme weather of the mountains where the Gods themselves are known to reside.
At the Kumbh Mela, you will find the Nagas doing things that are otherwise considered impossible. This display is to show people how spirituality changes the body beyond its physical limitations. They rarely appear in public and the Kumbh Mela is one of those rare public events.
Note: Do not take pictures/videos of Nagas without prior permission. Some of them may find it offensive. Also, do not call the Nagas as Aghori babas, since most people wrongly conceive them to be the same.
A Dip Of Salvation: The Holy Bath (Shahi Snan)
The Royal Bath or the Shahi Snan or the Rajyogi Snan is the first holy bath that is taken by Nagas, followed by saints and sages of different Akharas (religious groups) in the Sangam. Millions of pilgrims follow these saints and sages down onto the river; the Nagas take the lead.
To catch a glimpse of these Himalayan sages chanting, screaming and charging into the Holy Ganges, is a sight that fills the soul. The Shahi Snan that happens at the break of dawn is clearly the most intense and electrifying of all happenings at the Kumbh Mela. It is almost like a scene from the dawn of humanity where thousands of naked men smeared in ashes rush forward to take a dip in the river.
‘Amidst the many, I shall pray alone’ – It is no less than a miracle that unfolds in the waters of the Sangam where millions of pilgrims rush into the holy waters at a go. And while you are at the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Allahabad, talk to the pilgrims there.
When Is The Next Kumbh Mela?
The Ardh Kumbh Mela 2019 is going to be held at Allahabad (Prayag) from January 14th, 2019 to March 4th, 2019. According to estimates, the Kumbh Mela 2019 would have more than 2 crore pilgrims drawing in for the bathing ritual held in Allahabad.
Below is the table mentioning the important bathing dates for Kumbh Mela 2019:
A Safe Haven For The Soul
There is a voice to the Kumbh Mela, where you wake up in the morning to a buzz of a million voices. Some chanting verses from early Vedic scriptures, saints and seers preaching the masses and meditating by the river, pilgrims praying for the souls of their beloved, devotees of all ages seeking answers while a million others dip into the holy waters – a spectacle of faith above all.
The Kumbh Mela is the ultimate reflection of its people’s reverence and gratitude, acceptance and indulgence. While millions seek for a union with God, at the Kumbh Mela you will feel His divine presence lingering among the masses.
Where To Stay At The Ardh Kumbh Mela 2019?
TUTC invites you to a luxurious accommodation at Sangam Nivas that comprises of 44 tents in two categories: 17 Luxury and 27 Super Luxury. All tents are equipped with luxury amenities in each tent to enrich the your experience at the Kumbh Mela, Allahabad. With all modern conveniences at our plush tents including comfortable beds, en-suite bathrooms equipped with temperature regulators, running hot and cold water and flush toilets; we make sure you always feel at home. We also offer a wide range of activities at the Kumbh Mela to enchance your experience and make things a tad bit easier for you at the Kumbh Mela.
Know more about Sangam Nivas HERE
Written By: Jovita Elveera Mendonca