Kumbh Mela or Kumbha Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred or holy river.
Kumbha Mela at Allahabad, 15 Jan 2019
The Ardh Kumbh Mela, which is conducted after every six years, will commence on January 15, 2019, in Prayagraj, (Allahabad) Uttar Pradesh. The event, which is set to conclude on March 4, comes under the list of ‘intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
The Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj has been granted the status of world heritage by the UNESCO. As part of the rituals, devotees take a holy dip in Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers at Sangam. As per the Hindu scriptures, the bathing ritual will absolve the devotees of their sins and will help them attain liberation.
Traditionally, four fairs are widely recognized as the Kumbh Melas: the Prayagraj Kumbh Mela, Haridwar Kumbh Mela, the Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Simhastha, and Ujjain Simhastha. These four fairs are held periodically at one of the following places by rotation: Prayagraj (known until 2018 as Allahabad), Haridwar, Nashik district (Nashik and Trimbak), and Ujjain. The main festival site is located on the banks of a river: the Ganges (Ganga) at Haridwar; the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganges and the Yamuna and the invisible Sarasvati at Prayagraj; the Godavari at Nashik; and the Shipra at Ujjain. Bathing in these rivers is thought to cleanse a person of all their sins. At any given place, the Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years. Last Kumbh mela was in Year 2010 and next Full Kumbha Mela would be in Year 2022 at Haridwar.
Kumbha Mela derives its name from both the original festival being held according to the astrological sign “Kumbha” (Aquarius), and from the associated Hindu legend in which the gods and demons fought over a pot, or “kumbh,” of nectar that would give them immortality. The legend of samudra manthan tells of a battle between the Devas (benevolent deities) and Asuras (malevolent demigods) for amrita, the nectar drink of immortality. During samudra manthan, amrita was produced and placed in a Kumbha (pot). To prevent the asuras from seizing the amrita, a divine carrier flew away with the pot. In one of the most popular versions added to the original legend later, the carrier of the kumbha is the divine physician Dhanavantari, who stops at four places where the Kumbh Mela is celebrated The festival is the largest peaceful gathering in the world, and considered as the “world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims
It has been inscribed on the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
In Prayagraj, hearing the word “Kumbh”, creates the picturesque vision of Triveni sangam in one’s mind. At the sacred confluence of rivers, huge multitudes filled with sense of devotion move like waves in the ocean. ‘Shahi Snaan’ of Akharas, chanting of vedic mantras and elucidations of religious hymns in the Pandaals, proclamations of knowledge, Tatvamimansa by rishis, spiritual music, mesmerising sounds of instruments, holy dip in the sangam with utmost devotion fills the heart of devotees with immense joy. Also, prayers are offered at many divine temples exhibiting the greatness of Prayagraj Kumbh.
The Kumbh Mela at Prayag is very different as compared to Kumbh at other places due to many reasons. Firstly, the tradition of long-term Kalpvas is practised only in Prayag. Secondly, the Triveni Sangam is considered as the centre of the earth in few scriptures. Thirdly, Lord Brahma performed the Yajna here for creating the universe. Fourthly, Prayagraj is called the shrine of pilgrimages, but the most important reason is that the significance of performing rituals and tapas at Prayagraj is of highest among all pilgrimages and provides one with the highest virtue.
Maharshi Markandeya in ‘Matsya Purana’ told Yudhishtra that this place is specifically protected by all the Gods. Residing here for a month and practicing complete asceticism, remaining celibate and duly performing oblations for his deity and ancestors fulfils all the desires. It is believed that an individual who takes the holy dip in the sacred waters relieves his/her ten generations from the cycle of rebirth, and hence, achieving salvation. Moreover, it is said that just by providing services to pilgrims at Prayag during Kumbh will help an individual to gain redemption from temptation. Prayag is visited by tens of millions of pilgrims because these beliefs. Saints, ascetics and their followers pay their respect and perform various traditional rituals at Triveni sangam. The amazed devotees line up to watch the rituals being performed.
The Kumbh Mela at Prayag takes place for approximately 55 days, spread over thousands of hectares around the sangam area, and becomes the greatest of ephemeral city in the world. Regularity of this celebration continuing since ancient times is unique in itself. Ever increasing pressure of populace and expanding cities tend to engulf the rivers and events like Kumbh, graces the rivers with the profound status of creators of the world. There is a deeply enrooted feeling of devotion and faith flowing in the veins of every Indian since eternity.
After independence, various rules were framed resulting in few changes in organising Kumbh Mela. The government made provisions for providing basic amenities to the pilgrims. The government upon realising the importance of Kumbh and understanding the requirements of huge number of pilgrims visiting the mela took multiple steps in public interest in order to facilitate the pilgrims. Importance was given towards providing security services, better traffic management, lighting and health facilities and ensuring the same. It is difficult to say who took responsibility for these amenities before government made provisions for the same. However, after passing the law, the responsibility of providing the basic facilities lies with the government. On the same lines, formation of Prayagraj Mela Authority 2018 is an important stepping-stone towards organising the event of the scale of Kumbh. The formation of Prayagraj Mela Authority will ensure that the basic amenities are provided in Kumbh 2019 to the devotees visiting the Mela. For the Kumbh 2019, modern technologies are being deployed to enhance the ‘Divyata’ and ‘Bhavyata’ of the Kumbh. Gates based on various themes will welcome pilgrims and information boards will guide them to their destination. Huge pandals and tents will facilitate the stay of pilgrims and visitors. Various lighting arrangements have been made on the banks including façade lighting that will engulf the pilgrims in diverse colours. Also, different cuisines and gourmet food in the food courts shall satisfy the appetite of the pilgrims.