One of the major pilgrimage and festival in Hinduism is kumbh mela or kumbha mela. Its name is derived from the two words – ‘kumbh’, meaning the eternal pot of ‘nectar’ and ‘mela’ meaning ‘fair’. According to the mythology, when the deities and demons were fighting for the pot containing nectar of immortality ; which they got at the time of churning the ocean ( samudra manthan), few drops fell from the pot to four places on earth. So, kumbh mela is held at these four places- Haridwar, Allahabad (prayag), Nashik and Ujjain, once in 12 years. Drop of the nectar fell in haridwar on the sixth day and in Allahabad on the 9th day and on 12th day in Nashik and Ujjain. So that’s why, kumbh mela is celebrated in haridwar and Allahabad after a gap of 6 years and 3 years respectively, whereas in Nashik and Ujjain in the same year or the following year within a gap of six months. These four rivers are 1. triveni sangam of the river Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati in Allahabad 2. river Ganga in Haridwar 3. river Godavari in Nashik 4. river kshipra in Ujjain.
Believing that the drops of nectar from heaven have purified the river located at these four cities, millions of Hindu take a dip in these four river during the sacred period of kumbh mela to wash away all their sins and to achieve quick moksha, due to which kumbh mela is considered the world largest gathering on mother earth.
There is also an astronomical significance related to it. Just the way river Ganga is considered to be holy and sacred on earth, in the same way the path that Jupiter follows in sky is considered as sacred. It moves from Aquarius, Taurus, Scorpio and Leo. Aquarius is also considered as a pot pouring elixir on earth. So when it enters Aquarius, kumbh mela is held and when it enters other constellations smaller kumbh mela are held at other 3 locations in the country. It takes 3 earth year for Jupiter to move from one constellation to other.
The kumbh mela in India attracts a lots of people from around the world. It is consider to be older than history. Even when the transport facilities were not available in ancient time people from all corners of the country visited here to take holy bath.
Like kumbh mela, these are other religious congregation also take place in other parts of the world; like the Kandy esala perahera festival of srilanka, the water festival of the democratic Kampuchea and the Tet festival of Vietnam. But the kumbh mela of India excels in religious significance, spiritual fervour and mass appeal. It is also different from other congregation because no advertisement are issued for it, no invitations or any other things are done for it. People from all categories background, caste, and creed gather here in the hope of achieving salvation. It also symbolize the country’s unity and emotional integration. It also promotes national integration and lead to universal brotherhood.
Kumbh mela in haridwar
After every 12 years, the kumbh mela at haridwar is held. The mela here is conducted on the banks of river Ganga. The exact date of the mela is determined according to the Hindu astrology. When the Jupiter is in Aquarius and suns enter the Aries, the mela is held.
Haridwar is one of the four sites of kumbh-mela, other than the prayag (Allahabad), Nashik and Ujjain. This fair appears to be the original kumbh mela due to the fact that it is held according to the astrological sign Aquarius and several reference to a 12 year cycle for it. The haridwar kumbha mela dates at least from the early 1600s. It also enjoys exceptional mass coverage and tourist traffic due to being a top India pilgrimage site for Hindus. It is also known as the gateway to heaven in Hindu mythological scriptures. The last kumbh mela in haridwar took place in 2010, while ardh kumbh mela was in 2016 and the next mela is schedule to be in 2021.
Kumbh mela in prayagraj (Allahabad)
The kumbh mela in prayagraj (Allahabad) is a Hindu festival held at prayag tiveni sangam- the meeting point of three rivers; the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. The main activity performed in this mela is to take ritual dip in water, but other than this ,numerous fair, education , religious disclose by saints and entrainment spectacle also performed here. The 2013 prayag kumbh mela is the largest religious gathering in the world with almost 120 million visitors. The date of this kumbh mela is determined by the entry of planet Jupiter in Taurus zodiac and while the sun is in Capricorn. The river side fair of Allahabad is centuries old, but its association with kumbh mela and 12 years old cycle dates back to the 19th century. It is believed that the priests of Allahabad borrowed this concept from the haridwar kumbh mela and applied it to their local magh mela, an annual celebration .
Kumbh mela in Ujjain
After every 12 years in the Ujjain city of Madhya Pradesh, a Hindu religious mela ‘Ujjain simhastha’ is held. The name is also known as ‘sinhastha’ or ‘singhastha’. The name is derived from the fact that when Jupiter is in Leo. The main snann (bathing ritual) happens on the full moon day in Vaishakh month of Hindu calendar. The simhastha at Ujjain is an adaption of the Nashik- trimbak simhastha fair to a local festival of uncertain origin. The fair attracts millions of pilgrims, it is celebrated on the banks of Kshipra River. Here at simhath in Ujjain, a special reverence is paid to the temple of Mahakaleshwar Jyotrilinga, which is the abode of Lord Shiva swayambhu lingam.
Kumbh mela in Nashik
Nashik Trimbakeshwar simhastha is a Hindu religious mela held at every 12 years in the Nashik district of Maharashtra, India. The main activity is performed in this fair is the ritual bath on the banks of the Godavari river, at the trimbakeshwar Shiva temple and the Ram kund in Nashik. From the Nashik trimbak simhastha, the Ujjain simhashtha is adapted. The exact dates are determined according to a combination of zodiac position, when the Jupiter is in Leo or when Jupiter, sun and moon are in Cancer on lunar conjunction (Amavasya). The last fair was held in 2015 and the next is schedule to be in 2027.