Come January 2019, and all roads will lead to Prayagraj (Allahabad), in Uttar Pradesh. It would be carnival time at Kumbh Mela to be organized at the Triveni Sangam from January 15 – March 4, 2019 in this holy city. Growing up each one of us have heard tales about the crowd at ‘Kumbh ka Mela’. The rush is so huge that you can easily lose your way.
And this year, Allahabad would host the Ardha Kumbh Mela (which arrives once in every 6 years). So, you can expect millions of devout Hindus journeying to attend this special fair. Kumbh Mela holds the record for “world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims”. And it is expected that the upcoming Kumbh would uphold this tradition. But if you thought that the gathering of millions of devotees is the only unique thing about Kumbh Mela, you will be surprised by the facts mentioned below. So, take a read through.
#1: The Mythology
The word ‘Kumbh’ means ‘a vessel of Amrit’ (nectar of immortality). It is believed during Samudra Manthan, a Kumbh with amrit was discovered by the Gods and the demons. They both wanted to own it. At the behest of Lord Brahma one of the Gods tried running away with the Amrit. The demons however, chased and tried snatching the Kumbh. A scuffle followed and the nectar of life spilled in 4 places: Allahabad, Indore, Nasik and Haridwar. These four have today become holy sites Kumbh Mela.
As the tale goes, Sage Durvasa cursed the Gods in a fit of rage. This weakened the strength of the Gods and the Asuras (Demons) started wreaking havoc on Earth. So, Lord Brahma advised the Gods and Demons to churn out the nectar of immortality. And they did, but mid-way through the process, the demons understood that the Gods would keep the nectar for themselves. They chased the Gods for 12 days and during this the drops of Amrit fell at four places. The elixir is said to have turned back the rivers into that Amrit. The confluence of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati in Prayagraj is supposed to be one such site.
#2: First Historical mention
The first historical records of the Kumbh Mela can be found in the accounts of the famous Chinese traveler, Hiuen Tsang, who visited India during the reign of King Harshavardhan. In his writing he mentions of a ritual organized by Emperor Harshavardhan where hundreds of devotees took a dip at the confluence of two rivers in Prayaga.
#3: When should you be at Kumbh Mela?
Kumbh Mela is held on certain dates when the water of the sacred rivers is supposed to turn into nectar. So, before deciding the dates of Kumbh Mela (Ardha or Maha Kumbh Mela) the positions of Sun, Moon and Jupiter are taken into account. Generally, the Kumbh Mela is held in the month of Magh in Allahabad, when the planets are in perfect position. Taking a holy dip in the river during this time is supposed to cleanse the devotees of their sins. This year the most auspicious dates are 14, 27 January, 6, 15, 17, 21, 25 February.
#4: Faith over Pain
Usually held in the winter months when the rivers are freezing, especially in the Northern parts of India, it takes some will power to take a dip in the river during the early morning hours. And millions of devotees gladly go through this pain for the sake of devout faith. First Shahi Snan is held on Makar Sankranti and last will be on March 4, 2019 (next month’s full moon day). In-between bath dates would be full-moon days, no-moon days and Basant Panchmi.
#5: Time when Naga Sadhus descend
Kumbh Mela gives you the best chance to see the Naga Sadhus, who have repudiated all material things, pleasures and luxuries of life. They are staunch devotees of Lord Shiva and are never seen in public, barring the Kumbh. During this festival they flock in numbers to Allahabad and other Kumbh Mela places. Sadhus can be seen performing their warrior skills with weapons (such as sticks and swords). Inflicting pain upon themselves seems to be their best past-time. You can even ask their views, ideologies and philosophies if you are interested and they’ll be happy to discuss the same. Apart from the Nagas, holy men from other Hindu sects also visit this fair. Some such sects include Kalpwasis (who bathe thrice a day) and Urdhawavahurs (who believe in putting the body through severe austerities).
#6: Largest gathering
Each time the Kumbh Mela is held, it seems that the past records would be broken. As aforementioned, this fair is the largest peaceful gathering of humans on Earth. The 2013 event held at Allahabad holds the record for highest attendance of devotees. Kumbh Mela 2013 saw a gathering of jaw dropping 120 million people! Would Allahabad better its record this year? Only time will tell.
#7: A Fair of Scopes
In a nation where unemployment is still a big problem, the Kumbh Mela gives many people a temporary source of earning. Estimates from Kumbh Mela 2013 suggests that approximately 650,000 jobs were created and a total of INR 12,000 crore was earned during the event. That would be happy news for many!
#8: Chance to visit the submerged Hanuman Temple
One of the major attractions of the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad is a chance to see the Hanuman Temple. This is a unique temple, which remains submerged under the Ganges waters during most times of the year. As per Hindu mythology, it is believed that River Ganges raises its water level to touch the feet of Lord Hanuman causing the temple to remain submerged. But during the Kumbh Mela the temple emerges out of the water. Inside this unique temple one can witness a huge idol of Lord Hanuman (which is 20 ft. high) sitting in reclining position.
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