The Occasion of Kumbh Mela

One of the greatest sacred Hindu fairs, the Kumbh Mela witnesses the assemblage of an astounding number of pilgrims belonging to the Hindu community. With its religious spirit, multitudes of devotees, observance of holy rituals, ceremonial dip in the water and groups of holy men - the Kumbh Mela is a phenomenon to be experienced personally. In recent years, the fair has captured international interest with hundreds of foreign tourists coming to have a first-hand experience of it. Read all about the splendid occasion that Kumbh Mela is. To share it with your friends, please click here and pass on this page to them.
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Every year, periodical or annual fairs are held on river banks, lake-shores, beaches and sacred places by pious Hindus to commemorate important events mentioned in their sacred scriptures or in honour of their Gods or Goddesses. This is observed in almost every state of India.

The observance of Kumbh Mela is believed to have started thousands of years ago, in the Vedic period. The ancient Vedic text of "Çrémad-Bhägavatam" describes how in the early days of creation demigods and demons made a temporary agreement to churn the Ksheera Sagara (primordial ocean of milk) together for the amrit (the nectar of immortality) and to share the nectar equally. However, on the sight of the Amrita-Kumbh (urn of nectar), the two sides engaged themselves in a fierce battle for its possession. In this battle that continued for twelve days and twelve nights (equivalent to twelve human years), drops of the sacred amrita is believed to have spilled over to four place on earth - Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.

Therefore these four locations are considered holy by the Hindus and they observe the Kumbh Mela at these four locations to commemorate this legend of the Amrita-Kumbh and take a bath in the adjoining rivers. In Nashik it is held on the banks of the River Godavari, River Ganga in Haridwar, River Shipra in Ujjain and the confluence of the three rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati at Allahabad or Prayag (ancient name) in India. The Purna Kumbh or Maha Kumbh, the biggest and the most auspicious fair, is held once every 12 years in one particular place and every fourth year on all the four places by rotation. Around 60 million people is said to attend the Maha Kumbh Mela, making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world.

ceremonial dip in the water at Kumbh MelaThe most important ritual of the Kumbh Mela is the ceremonial dip in the water. At Nasik, the pilgrims bathe in the Godavari River; at Ujjain, in the River Shipra; at Haridwar, in the River Ganges; and at Allahabad, in the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamunä, and Sarasvati.

The pious Hindus believe that simply taking a bath in the holy waters of these places frees them and their ancestors back to the eighty-eighth generation from their past sins (karma). They hold that taking bath makes them and their ancestors eligible for liberation from the cycle of birth and death and ensures their salvation. Of course a pure lifestyle is also to be maintained after taking bath, otherwise nothing comes of this ritual. The ritual of bathing is carried out in the open and ideally on the banks of a river or stream with complete submergence of the body under water. Afterwards, an oblation is made to the sun god. The new moon day is held to be the most auspicious day for the ritual bath at Kumbh.

Kumbh Mela in India is attended by pilgrims coming from all walks of life. Many of these people often travel long distances to come to these places, tolerating many physical discomforts such as sleeping in the open air in near freezing weather. Pilgrims of Kumbh MelaThey willingly bear these difficulties just to have the chance of taking a bath in the sacred river at Kumbh Mela. The fair, however, is incomplete without the presence of the ascetics and sadhus. The Nagas, Urdhwavahurs, Parivrajakas, Shirshasins and Kalpvasis are a common sight at Kumbh Mela. These holy men or sadhus initiate the ritual bath at Kumbh Mela. Many of the devout Hindus assembled at Kumbh touch their feet and listen to them in the hope of gaining spiritual knowledge. This is followed by the collective dip in the holy waters. After the bath, the pilgrims wear new clothes and move to the riverbanks to perform puja.

Over the years, the importance of the Kumbh Mela has risen several times. In present times, the fair is attended by millions of pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. For a vast majority of people, it is once-in-a-lifetime trip. For thousands of traders, shopkeepers and businessmen it is the time for some brisk business.
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