Kumbh Mela
Overview
 
Kumbh Mela also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

: कुम्भ मेला) is a mass Hindu pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

 in which Hindus gather at the Ganges river.

The normal Kumbh Mela
Mela
Mela is a Sanskrit word meaning 'gathering' or 'to meet' or a Fair. It is used in the Indian subcontinent for all sizes of gathering and can be religious, commercial, cultural or sports. In rural traditions melas or village fairs were of great importance...

 is celebrated every 3 years, the Ardh (half) Kumbh Mela is celebrated every six years at Haridwar and Prayag, the Purna (complete) Kumbh takes place every twelve years, at four places Prayag, Haridwar
Haridwar
Haridwar is an important pilgrimage city and municipality in the Haridwar district of Uttarakhand, India...

, Ujjain
Ujjain
Ujjain , is an ancient city of Malwa region in central India, on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River , today part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the administrative centre of Ujjain District and Ujjain Division.In ancient times the city was called Ujjayini...

, and Nashik).
Encyclopedia
Kumbh Mela also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

: कुम्भ मेला) is a mass Hindu pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

 in which Hindus gather at the Ganges river.

The normal Kumbh Mela
Mela
Mela is a Sanskrit word meaning 'gathering' or 'to meet' or a Fair. It is used in the Indian subcontinent for all sizes of gathering and can be religious, commercial, cultural or sports. In rural traditions melas or village fairs were of great importance...

 is celebrated every 3 years, the Ardh (half) Kumbh Mela is celebrated every six years at Haridwar and Prayag, the Purna (complete) Kumbh takes place every twelve years, at four places Prayag, Haridwar
Haridwar
Haridwar is an important pilgrimage city and municipality in the Haridwar district of Uttarakhand, India...

, Ujjain
Ujjain
Ujjain , is an ancient city of Malwa region in central India, on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River , today part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the administrative centre of Ujjain District and Ujjain Division.In ancient times the city was called Ujjayini...

, and Nashik). The Maha (great) Kumbh Mela which comes after 12 'Purna Kumbh Melas', or 144 years, is held at Prayag (also known as Allahabad).

The last Ardh Kumbh Mela was held over a period of 45 days beginning in January 2007, more than 70 million Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 pilgrims took part in the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Allahabad
Allahabad
Allahabad , or Settled by God in Persian, is a major city of India and is one of the main holy cities of Hinduism. It was renamed by the Mughals from the ancient name of Prayaga , and is by some accounts the second-oldest city in India. It is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh,...

, and on January 15, the most auspicious day of the festival of Makar Sankranti, more than 5 million participated.

The previous Maha Kumbh Mela, held in 2001, was attended by around 60 million people, making it at the time the largest gathering anywhere in the world in recorded history.

Timing

Kumbh Mela is celebrated at different locations depending on the position of the planet of Bṛhaspati (Jupiter) and the sun. When Jupiter and the sun are in the zodiac sign Leo (Singh Rashi) it is held in Trimbakeshwar, Nashik; when the sun is in Aries (Mesha Rashi) it is celebrated at Haridwar; when Jupiter is in Taurus (Vrishabha Rashi ) and the sun is in Capricorn (Makar Rashi) Kumbha Mela is celebrated at Prayag; and Jupiter and the sun are in Scorpio (Vrishchik Rashi) the Mela is celebrated at Ujjain. Each site's celebration dates are calculated in advance according to a special combination of zodiacal positions of Sun, Moon, and Jupiter.

History

The first written evidence of the Kumbha Mela can be found in the accounts of Chinese traveler, Huan Tsang or Xuanzang
Xuanzang
Xuanzang was a famous Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveler, and translator who described the interaction between China and India in the early Tang period...

 (602 - 664 A.D.) who visited India in 629 -645 CE, during the reign of King Harshavardhana. However, the observance dates back many centuries to ancient India
History of India
The history of India begins with evidence of human activity of Homo sapiens as long as 75,000 years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent from...

's Vedic period, where the river festivals first started getting organised. In Hindu mythology
Hindu mythology
Hindu religious literature is the large body of traditional narratives related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Nepali and Indian culture...

, its origin is found in one of the popular creation myths, the Samudra manthan
Samudra manthan
In Hinduism, Samudra manthan or Ksheera Sagara Mathanam, Churning of the Ocean of Milk is one of the most famous episodes in the Puranas...

episode (Churning of the ocean of milk
Ocean of milk
In Hindu cosmology, the Ocean of Milk is the fifth from the center of the seven oceans that surround loka or directional space and separate it from aloka or non-directional space. It surrounds the continent known as Krauncha. The gods and demons worked together for a millennium to churn the sea...

), mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana
Bhagavata purana
The Bhāgavata Purāṇa is one of the "Maha" Puranic texts of Hindu literature, with its primary focus on bhakti to the incarnations of Vishnu, particularly Krishna...

, Vishnu Purana
Vishnu Purana
The Vishnu Purana is a religious Hindu text and one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. It is considered one of the most important Puranas and has been given the name Puranaratna...

, the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

, and the Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

.

The account goes that the Gods had lost their strength, and to regain it, they thought of churning the Ksheera Sagara (primordial ocean of milk) for amrita
Amrita
Amrit is a Sanskrit word that literally means "immortality", and is often referred to in texts as nectar. The word's earliest occurrence is in the Rigveda where it is one of several synonyms of soma, the drink which confers immortality upon the gods. It is related etymologically to the Greek...

 (the nectar of immortality). This required them to make a temporary agreement with their arch enemies, the demons or Asura
Asura
-In Hinduism:In Hinduism, the Asuras constitute a group of power-seeking deities, sometimes considered sinful and materialistic. The Daityas and Danavas were combinedly known as Asuras. The Asura were opposed to the Devas. Both groups are children of Kasyapa...

s, to work together with a promise of sharing the nectar equally thereafter. However, when the Kumbha
Kumbha
The Kumbha , is a full vase, pot, a jar or a pitcher. In the context of Hinduism and Hindu mythology, it is also symbolic of the womb. It represents fertility, life, generative power of human beings and sustenance; and is generally associated with the mother goddesses, particularly Ganga.In...

(urn) containing the amrita appeared, a fight ensued. For twelve days and twelve nights (equivalent to twelve human years) the gods and demons fought in the sky for the pot of amrita. It is believed that during the battle, Lord Vishnu flew away with the Kumbha
Kumbha
The Kumbha , is a full vase, pot, a jar or a pitcher. In the context of Hinduism and Hindu mythology, it is also symbolic of the womb. It represents fertility, life, generative power of human beings and sustenance; and is generally associated with the mother goddesses, particularly Ganga.In...

 of elixir spilling drops of amrita at four places: Allahabad
Allahabad
Allahabad , or Settled by God in Persian, is a major city of India and is one of the main holy cities of Hinduism. It was renamed by the Mughals from the ancient name of Prayaga , and is by some accounts the second-oldest city in India. It is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh,...

, Haridwar, Ujjain
Ujjain
Ujjain , is an ancient city of Malwa region in central India, on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River , today part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the administrative centre of Ujjain District and Ujjain Division.In ancient times the city was called Ujjayini...

 and Nashik.

Attendance

According to The Imperial Gazetteer of India
The Imperial Gazetteer of India
The Imperial Gazetteer of India was a gazetteer of the British Indian Empire, and is now a historical reference work. It was first published in 1881...

, an outbreak of cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

 occurred at the 1892 Mela at Haridwar leading to the rapid improvement of arrangements by the authorities and to the formation of Haridwar Improvement Society. In 1903 about 400,000 people are recorded as attending the fair. During the 1954 Kumbh Mela stampede
1954 Kumbh Mela stampede
1954 Kumbh Mela stampede was a stampede that occurred in 1954 at Kumbha Mela on 3 February 1954 in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh state in India. It was main bathing day of Mauni Amavasya , when the incident took place, and during the festival 4-5 million pilgrims had taken part that year, which was...

 at Prayag, around 500 people were killed, and scores were injured. Ten million people gathered at Haridwar for the Kumbh on April 14, 1998.

The 1998 Kumbh Mela saw over 10 million pilgrims visiting Hardwar, to take a dip in the holy Ganges river. In 2001, around 1 million people from outside of India and from around the world participated in the Maha Kumbh Mela at Allahabad
Allahabad
Allahabad , or Settled by God in Persian, is a major city of India and is one of the main holy cities of Hinduism. It was renamed by the Mughals from the ancient name of Prayaga , and is by some accounts the second-oldest city in India. It is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh,...

, with a total participation of approximately 60 million. This mela was unusually significant due to the planetary positions at the time, a pattern that repeats only once every 144 years.

The Ritual

The major event of the festival is ritual bathing
Ritual purification
Ritual purification is a feature of many religions. The aim of these rituals is to remove specifically defined uncleanliness prior to a particular type of activity, and especially prior to the worship of a deity...

 at the banks of the river in whichever town it is being held. Nasik has registered maximum visitors amounted nearly to 75 million. Other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor, and religious assemblies where doctrines are debated and standardized. Kumbh Mela is the most sacred of all the pilgrimages. Thousands of holy men and women attend, and the auspiciousness of the festival is in part attributable to this. The sadhus are seen clad in saffron sheets with ashes and powder dabbed on their skin per the requirements of ancient traditions. Some, called naga sanyasis, may not wear any clothes even in severe winter.

After visiting the Kumbh Mela of 1895, Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

 wrote:

1894

According to Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda , born Mukunda Lal Ghosh , was an Indian yogi and guru who introduced many westerners to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his book, Autobiography of a...

 in his work the Autobiography of a Yogi
Autobiography of a Yogi
In 1946, Paramahansa Yogananda , published his life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, which introduced many westerners to meditation and yoga...

, it was on the Kumbha Mela in January 1894 at Allahabad
Allahabad
Allahabad , or Settled by God in Persian, is a major city of India and is one of the main holy cities of Hinduism. It was renamed by the Mughals from the ancient name of Prayaga , and is by some accounts the second-oldest city in India. It is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh,...

 that his Guru Sri Yukteswar met Mahavatar Babaji
Mahavatar Babaji
Mahavatar Babaji is the name given to an Indian saint by Lahiri Mahasaya and several of his disciples who met Mahavatar Babaji between 1861 and 1935. Some of these meetings were described by Paramhansa Yogananda in his book Autobiography of a Yogi , including a first hand telling of Yogananda’s own...

 for the first time.

2001

In 2001, Kumbh Mela was held in Prayag. It is estimated that about 60 million people took a bath in the river Ganges on the occasion.

2003

When the Kumbha Mela was held in Nashik, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, from July 27 to September 7, 2003, 39 pilgrims (28 women and 11 men) were trampled to death and 57 were injured. Devotees had gathered on the banks of the Godavari
Godavari River
The Godavari is a river that runs from western to southern India and is considered to be one of the big river basins in India. With a length of 1465 km, it is the second longest river in India , that runs within the country and also the longest river in South India...

 river for the maha snaan or holy bath. Over 30,000 pilgrims were being held back by barricades in a narrow street leading to the Ramkund, a holy spot, so the sadhu
Sadhu
In Hinduism, sādhu denotes an ascetic, wandering monk. Although the vast majority of sādhus are yogīs, not all yogīs are sādhus. The sādhu is solely dedicated to achieving mokṣa , the fourth and final aśrama , through meditation and contemplation of brahman...

s could take the first ceremonial bath. Reportedly, a sadhu threw some silver coins into the crowd and the subsequent scramble led to the stampede.

2010

Haridwar
Haridwar
Haridwar is an important pilgrimage city and municipality in the Haridwar district of Uttarakhand, India...

 hosted the Purna Kumbha mela from Makar Sankranti (14 January 2010) to Shakh Purnima Snan (28 April 2010). Millions of Hindu pilgrims attended the mela. On April 14, 2010, alone approximately 10 million people bathed in the Ganges river. According to officials by mid April about 40 million people had bathed since January 14, 2010. Hundreds of foreigners joined Indian pilgrims in the festival which is thought to be the largest religious gathering in the world. To accommodate the large number of pilgrims Indian Railways
Indian Railways
Indian Railways , abbreviated as IR , is a departmental undertaking of Government of India, which owns and operates most of India's rail transport. It is overseen by the Ministry of Railways of the Government of India....

 ran special trains. At least 5 people died in a stampede after clashes between holy men and devotees.

Indian Space Research Organisation
Indian Space Research Organisation
The Indian Space Research Organisation is an independent Indian governmental agency established in 1969 for the research and development of vehicles and activities for the exploration of space within and outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Headquartered in Bangalore...

 took satellite pictures of the crowds with the hope of improving the conduct of the festival in the future.

Future Venues

  • The Purna Kumbha Mela will again be held at Prayag in the year 2013 (January 27 to February 25)
  • Nasik will host the Kumbha Mela in 2015 (Also Known as Simhasth @ Nashik as Guru is in Sigh Rashi)(August 15 to September 13)
  • Ujjan Purna Kumbh Mela 2016 (April 22 to May 21)

Kumbha Mela in Media

Amrita Kumbher Sandhane
Amrita Kumbher Sandhane
Amrita Kumbher Sandhane is a 1982 Bengali film directed by Dilip Roy. It is based on a story by “Kalkut”, pseudonym of Samaresh Basu...

, a 1982 Bengali
Bengali language
Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written with the Bengali script...

 feature film directed by Dilip Roy, documents the Kumbh Mela. Kumbha Mela has been theme for many a documentaries, including "Kumbh Mela: The Greatest Show on Earth" (2001) by, On 24 Sept, The Hindu reported the great faith in god displayed in kumbh mela at Nasik which had more than 70 million visitors in 2003 kumbh mela. (2004), by Maurizio Benazzo and Nick Day, Kumbh Mela: Songs of the River (2004), by Nadeem Uddin, and Invocation, Kumbha Mela (2008)

On April 18, 2010, a popular American morning show The CBS Sunday Morning gave an extensive coverage on Haridwar's Kumbh Mela "The Largest Pilgrimage on Earth". Calling it "one of the most extraordinary displays of faith on Earth, a spectacular journey drawing tens of millions of people".

On April 28, 2010, BBC reported an audio and a video report on Kumbh Mela, titled "Kumbh Mela 'greatest show on earth'.

On September 30, 2010, the Kumbh Mela featured in the second episode of the Sky One TV series "An Idiot Abroad" with Karl Pilkington visiting the festival.

See also

  • Mahamaham
    Mahamaham
    Mahamaham is a Hindu Kumb Mela festival celebrated every 12 years in a town called Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu, India. Hindus consider taking a holy dip at the Mahamaham tank on the day of Mahamaham as sacred...

  • Ganga Sagar
    Ganga Sagar
    Ganga Sagar is a 1978 Bollywood film directed by Ashish Kumar. The film stars Trilok Kapoor, Bela Bose, Bharat Bhushan, and Lalita Pawar....

  • 1954 Kumbh Mela stampede
    1954 Kumbh Mela stampede
    1954 Kumbh Mela stampede was a stampede that occurred in 1954 at Kumbha Mela on 3 February 1954 in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh state in India. It was main bathing day of Mauni Amavasya , when the incident took place, and during the festival 4-5 million pilgrims had taken part that year, which was...

  • Pushkaram
    Pushkaram
    Pushkaram is a festival in India which occurs in any particular year with respect to one of twelve important rivers; the river for each year's festival is based on which zodiacal sign Jupiter is in at that time...



Further reading

  • Kumbha Mela: History and Religion, Astronomy and Cosmobiology, by Subas Rai. Published by Ganga Kaveri Pub. House, 1993. ISBN 81-85694-01-X.
  • The Kumbh Mela, by Mark Tully
    Mark Tully
    Sir William "Mark" Tully, OBE is the former Chief of Bureau, BBC, New Delhi. He worked for BBC for a period of 30 years before resigning in July 1994. He held the position of Chief of Bureau, BBC, Delhi for 20 years. Since 1994 he has been working as a freelance journalist and broadcaster based in...

    (Author), Richard Lannoy (Photographer), Ashok Mahendra (Photographer). Indica Books. 2002. ISBN 81-86569-22-7.
  • Kumbha Mela, by Jack Hebner. Published by Transition Vendor, 2003. ISBN 1-886069-90-5.
  • Nashik Kumbh Mela: A Spiritual Sojourn, by Govind Swarup. India Book House Ltd, 2006. ISBN 81-7508-379-4.
  • Pilgrimage and Power: The Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, 1765-1954, by Kama Maclean. Oxford University Press, USA. 2008. ISBN 0-19-533894-4.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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