Held every four years, the Kumbh Mela is one of the
biggest events for the Indian Hindu community. This sacred fair has a
highly interesting origin that can be traced back to the sacred Hindu
texts of the Vedic ages. Know all about the splendid origin of Kumbh
Mela. If you like this article, do not forget to
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India is predominantly a land of religion. With a total of 330 million gods, goddesses and demigods being mentioned in the sacred Hindu scriptures it is natural that religion remains the cornerstone of the Hindu religion. Every year, periodical or annual fairs are held on river banks, lake-shores, beaches and sacred places by Hindus to commemorate important events or in honour of Gods or Goddesses. In common Hindu parlance, fairs are known as 'Mela's. These 'mela's find a mention in the great Hindu epics and sacred Sanskrit texts (Puranas) and are a prominent feature of Hinduism from time immemorial.
The most important of these melas is the Kumbh Mela. A mass pilgrimage for the Hindu community of India, the Kumbh Mela or Kumbh fair is rumoured to be one of the largest congregation of sages, yogis, ascetics, mendicants, men, women and children on the planet. It occurs four times every twelve years and is organised in rotation among four places: Allahabad (Prayag), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik. Every twelve-year cycle includes one Purna Kumbh Mela (Great Kumbh Mela) at Prayag. Around 60 million people is said to attend the Purna Kumbh Mela, making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world.
The Maha Kumbh Mela periodically falls every 144 years or after 12 Purna Kumbh Melas, at Allahabad.
Kumbh Mela derives its name from the AmritaKumbha (Pot of Nectar) described in the ancient Vedic scripture "Çrémad-Bhägavatam". In Sanskrit language, the word Kumbha means 'pot or pitcher’. Mela means 'festival'. Thus Kumbh Mela literally means festival of the pot, that is, the pot of nectar.
The origin of the Kumbh Mela can be traced to the mythological story of the Sagar Manthan or 'Churning of the Ocean' that is described in the ancient Vedic text of "Çrémad-Bhägavatam". The story of Sagar Manthan relates how, many millions of years ago in the heavenly planets of this universe, the devas (demigods) and the asuras (demons) were engaged in a fierce battle for supremacy. Due to a curse of the great sage Durväsä Muni, the demigods had lost all their influence and strength and had been defeated by the asuras. Then the demigods approached Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the universe, and appealed to him to bestow on them the boon of immortality.
Lord Vishnu suggested that the demigods and demons work together to churn the ocean of milk to produce the nectar of immortality, which could be distributed equally among them. The Gods promised the demons that in lieu of their help to churn the ocean, they would divide the treasure alternately.
The Lord had no intention of giving the nectar to the demons, because they were crooked and troublesome, and to distribute the nectar to such persons would be unwise. So he
advised the demigods to break their promise as soon as they got the nectar. Such an act was immoral, yet a perfect one in view of the terrible nature of the demons who could eternally unleash havoc on everyone if they became immortal. Lord Vishnu always protects the righteous demigods, and He wanted to stop the demons from expanding their influence all over the creation.
Following the advice of Lord Vishnu, the demigods approached the leaders of the demons, and an agreement was reached. All of them began to churn the ocean of milk. In this churning, many beautiful things and creatures came out. Last of all appeared a very wonderful male person named Dhanvantari who carried the amrita-kumbha, a jug filled to the brim with nectar. At the sight of the jug of nectar, a fighting ensued between the demons and demigods for its possession.
Amidst this battle, Jayanta, the son of Lord Indra (the king of the demigods), ran away with the pitcher
toward the heavenly planets. The demons followed him there, and the fierce fighting continued for twelve days. Though the demigods ultimately managed to get the pot of nectar with the help of Lord Vishnu, yet some of the nectar spilled during this struggle and fell on four places on earth. Following the scriptures, these four places are recognized to be: Nasika, in Maharashtra; Ujjain, in Madhya Pradesh; and Haridwar and Allahabad, in Uttar Pradesh. Therefore, these places are considered holy by the Hindus and have become important pilgrim spots.
The Puranas mention that a day in heaven equals one year on earth. So, to commemorate the auspicious shedding of the nectar on earth, festivals, or 'mela's, are held at each of these sites once every twelve years. Even today millions of people congregate in these places to by bathing in the holy rivers (that is believed to grant immortality to the bather) and drinking the sacred water as nectar, or 'amrita'.