‘Kumbh Mela’

Responsibilities of Hindus working at ‘Kumbh Mela’ and in various fields

Extent of ‘Kumbh Mela’

More than 5 crore devotees come to the bank of River Ganga to attend ‘Maha-Kumbh Mela’ that comes every 12th year and is the largest religious fair in the world. On this occasion, many scholars, hermits, Shankaracharyas of various ‘Peethas’, ‘Sadhus’ of 13 ‘aakhaadaas’, Saints, Mahatmas and Mahamandaleshwar come here.

Main reasons for Hindus attending ‘Kumbh Mela’

Many Hindus come to ‘Kumbh Mela’ with the wish of purifying their mind, to destroy their sins, to liberate from the cycle of birth and death, attain ‘Moksha’, become immortal etc.

Existing and expected role of media !

Existing Role : ‘Sadhus’ and Saints take out processions with much pomp and fare during ‘Kumbh Mela’. Newspapers and news channels give priority to news related to bath in River Ganga. How many people had bath; who had bath first, who had bath in the end is the main topic of discussions. 

Expected Role : People staying at Haridwar are always near River Ganga and take a dip in the river every day; but they don’t achieve immortality or attain liberation. This is not the true form of Dharma. Discussions should be held on ‘Dharma’ or knowledge so as to explain the true form of ‘Maha-Kumbh Mela’ to all so that they can take spiritual benefits.

Expectations from Hindu ‘Dharmacharyas’

Millions of devotees gather for religious holy bath in River Ganga during the biggest ‘Maha-Kumbh Mela’ in the world held for 3 and half months. These people should be told time and again, the basic principles of Manu and about the ‘Vedic Dharma’, i.e. the root of all religions.
अद्भिः गात्राणि शुध्यन्ति मन: सत्येन शुध्यति
विद्यातपोभ्यां भूतात्मा बुद्धिज्र्ञानेन शुध्यति ।।
मनुस्मृति, अध्याय , श्लोक १०९

Meaning : Water purifies only body; Truth purifies the mind; knowledge and ascetic practice purifies the soul whereas learning purifies the intellect.

Expectations from those who revere Ganga River

‘Ganga’ and Yamuna’ are the two important rivers in India. As per one report, these rivers are most polluted. The two main reasons for Ganga River being polluted are chemical effluents coming from industrial companies and business houses, other trash and plastic bags containing ‘puja’-material thrown by people in the river in the name of Dharma. During 1985 to 2000, Indian Government spent Rs. 10000 millions under its project for purification of River Ganga; even then, the most sacred Indian River Ganga is still polluted. As per the report of the Planning Commission, Rs. 7000 crores are required to free River Ganga from pollution. We want to save Ganga River which is worshipped by billions of people in this country and everyone should take initiative in this drive. 

Special characteristics of ‘Kumbh Mela’

Kumbh Mela’ is the symbol of Hindu unity !

‘Kumbh Mela’ is the biggest religious fair of Hindus. Most of the people are curious to know about ‘Kumbh Mela’, its internal form, ‘Aakhaadaas’ of ‘Sadhus’ etc. This article is published taking into account such curiosity.

1. Kumbh Mela : Open platform of Hindus’ cultural unity

The administrators/ propagators of Dharma have made available 4 open platforms to Hindus on the occasion of ‘Kumbh Mela’ at Prayagraj (Allahabad), Hardwar (Haridwar), Ujjain and Tryambakeshwar – Nashik. The 4 places of ‘Kumbh Mela’ are symbols of 4 directions. These ‘Kumbh Melas’ used to be held even before modern means of transport were invented by man.  During that time, it was not easy to come together from 4 directions of Bharat and therefore, these ‘Kumbh Melas’ become the common point of symbols of Indian unity and Hindu culture.

2. Crores of devotees are its extent of pervasion

Minimum 5 crore devotees attend ‘Maha Kumbh Mela’ held at Prayag for taking holy bath in River Ganga; whereas 1 to 2 crore devotees attend ‘Kumbh Melas’ at Hardwar (Haridwar), Ujjain and Tryambakeshwar- Nashik. Followers of Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism also take part in the ‘Kumbh Melas’. The number of devotees attending ‘Kumbh Mela’ at Prayag has been noted in ‘Guinness Book of World Records’.

Information of holy ‘Kumbh Mela’ is available only in Almanacs; still millions of Hindus gather every 12th year without any invitation. This is the vastness of ancient Hindu Dharma !

In the year 1942, Lord Linlithgow, the Indian Viceroy saw the ‘Kumbh Mela’ at Prayag while travelling with Pundit Madan Mohan Malviya on an aero plane. He was astonished to see the sea of millions of devotees and he curiously asked Pt. Malvinas, “The organizers must have taken lot of trouble to gather people in ‘Kumbh Mela’; isn’t it? How much the organizers must have spent?” Pt. Malviya said, “Only two paisa!” Listening to this answer, Lord Linlithgow asked Pt. Malviya, “Pundit ji, are you teasing me?”  Pt. Malviya took put a copy of almanac from his pocket and handing it over to Lord Linlithgow, he said, “This costs only two Paisa. People come to know about the holy period of ‘Kumbh Mela’ through this. Accordingly, every one of them gathers for holy bath on their own. Nobody is given personal invitation.” (‘Keshav-Samvad’, 27.7.2007)

3. Yearning to have holy bath in River Ganga as it awakens the feeling of detachment in devotees including physical awareness

Nobody pays attention to clothes worn by the participants in ‘Kumbh Mela’. When a nude ‘Sadhu’ takes a plunge in River Ganga along with his ‘Aakhaadaa’, one feels nice to look at such scene. Here, people forget their identity whether they are man or woman; forget about physical desires. People don’t notice whether a person is dressed or not, such thought does not occur to anyone. Many women are seen drying their saris; but nobody even looks at them. The students of Science of sexuality should visit ‘Kumbh Mela’. In that atmosphere, nobody feels lust/ sexual desire is not felt. They may feel such study is challenging. There is no question of molestation of women, rape, indecent behavior or problem of law and order ! The only yearning everyone has is getting an opportunity to have holy bath in Ganga! (Dainik Loksatta’, 06.02. 2001)

4. Exhibition of boundless devotion and procession of  armed ‘Sadhus, Saints’ on the occasion of ‘holy bath’

4 A. Holy bath’ by ‘Sadhus’ from ‘Aakhaadaas’ during ‘Parva-kaal’  

On the day of ‘Parvani (specific period)’ during ‘Kumbh Mela’, ‘Sadhus- Saints’ from different ‘aakhaadaas’ along with their disciples take bath in the order decided earlier and this is known as ‘Holy (Shaahi) bath’.

4 B. Procession of ‘Sadhus and Saints’,  along with their arms , taken out for ‘holy bath’ ! 

At about 4.00 a.m., the holy bath begins. ‘Sadhus and Saints from different ‘aakhaadaas’ go in a procession carrying their arms to go for ‘holy bath’. Thousands of people gather on both sides of the procession to have a look. The local devotees decorate the path to be taken by the procession with ‘rangolis’ and flowers. Later, various ‘aakhaadaas’ go on this path, one after another, along with their religious leaders, disciples, elephants, camels, horses etc. with the background of music, to the place for taking holy bath. Some of them go on elephants, some go on decorated chariots mounted on tractors, trolleys etc. and their followers hold canopies over the heads of their Gurus/ leaders; devotees shower flowers on them, with playing drums, timpani etc. in the background and raising acclamations of ‘Har Har Shankar, Gauri Shankar ‘, ‘Har Har Mahadev’ and ‘Jai Ganga Maiyaki Jai’ etc. Thousands of nude ‘Sadhus’ go in the procession with ash smeared all over their body wearing garlands, holding blazing swords or other weapons and flags. Due to smearing of ash, thousands of  Naga ‘Sadhus’ look like figures which don’t look like human; they raise slogans of ‘Har Har Gange….’ and we feel as if we are watching some live picture.

4 C. Exhibition of absolute devotion by devotees during procession !

In the year 1930 when we were returning after having holy bath in River Ganga during ‘Kumbh Mela’ at Prayag, many women-devotees from Kathiawad (Gujarat) were trying to come on the roads by breaking the ropes tied on both sides of the road. The procession of Naga ‘aakhaadaa’ was being taken out. As that ‘aakhaadaa’ passed by, those women came on the road despite barricades and took some dust from the path taken by the procession and smeared on their foreheads. They also carried some dust by tying in the edge of clothes they were wearing. Such was their absolute devotion! – Vaikunth ji Mehrotra [Kalyan Hindu Sanskruti issue – 24th year’s special issue), Kalyan Office, Gorakhpur]

4 D. Great period of ‘Kumbh Mela’ is taking ‘darshan’ of Sadhus and Saints following various paths of Yoga !

Evolved persons meditating in Himalayan caves, hermits from Kashmir to Kanyakumari travelling on foot and Saints/ Mahants from armed ‘aakhaadaas’ can be seen during ‘Kumbh Mela’. If we try to talk to them, we realize that they are like ‘Himalaya’ as far as their knowledge and experiences are concerned; still they are very humble and loving. When they view the crowd, it is like they are encompassing everyone as sea does.

(Fortnightly ‘Sanskrutik Vartaa-patra’, ‘Maha-kumbh’ special issue, 15.8.2003)

5. Very interesting discourses by ‘Sadhus and Saints’ on Dharma and Spirituality drawing devotees to them in ‘Kumbh Mela’   

During ‘Kumbh Mela’, ‘darshan’ of Saints gives a treat to eyes of devotees; whereas discourse and lectures on topics like Dharma, Spirituality, ‘Ramayana’, ‘Mahabharata’ etc. are inspiring treats to ears of devotees. About 10,000 pandals are erected at the venue and in most of these pandals, discourses on religious subjects are held every day.

6. Sheds offering food throughout the day (anna-chhatra) is a facility provided by different Sects to devotees during ‘Kumbh Mela’

In pandal of every Sect or ‘aakhaadaas’ the common thing that goes on throughout the day is ‘Anna-chhatra’ run for devotees. There might not be a single ‘aakhaadaa’ where ‘anna-chhatra’ is not run. There are many such ‘anna-chhatras’ run during ‘Kumbh Mela’ which provide food for millions of devotees; else, more than 75, 00, 000 devotees gathering for ‘Parva-snan (holy bath)’ would have had to lit fire for cooking food and it would have required such big space !’ – Dr. Durgesh Samant , former group Editor, ‘Sanatan Prabhat’ periodicals (28.9.2003)

7. Disparities in society are forgotten in gathering of devotees through the medium of ‘Anna-chhatra’

Few rich ‘aakhaadaas’ run ‘Anna-chhatras’ during ‘Kumbh Mela’. Generally, it is a feeling amongst people that ‘Anna-chhatra’ means where food is provided to the poor; but during ‘Kumbh Mela’, there is a base of spirituality to these ‘Anna-chhatras (having food together)’. Here, a devotee, who is a millionaire, is seen having food as ‘God’s Prasad (holy sacrament)’ sitting next to a poor beggar. (‘Dainik Loksatta’, 6.2.2001)

8.  Fair of Faith giving a hard slap to ANS members

‘More than 5 crore devotees attend Prayag (Allahabad) ‘Kumbh Mela’ without receiving any invitation or without any concessions in journey fares or without any media coverage or any financial aid because of Hindus’ faith towards Dharma. Hindus and Saints, religious leaders go to the place of pilgrimage, in unison, at the confluence of three holy rivers including Ganga-mata in such large number. In none of the non-Hindu Sects, devotees gather at such large extent nor have we ever heard of any such gathering. Atheist organizations like ANiS also are not able to gather such huge number of non-believers; but even with invitation, they cannot manage to collect even 100 people. This indicates the extra-ordinary nature of Hindu Dharma.’ - H.H. Dr. Jayant Athavale (Nij Bhadrapada Kru. Saptami, Kali Yuga Varsha 5114 [7.10.2012])

History and Importance of Kumbh Mela

Kumbh Mela’ held at Prayagraj, a place of pilgrimage on the holy confluence of Rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati !

The religious fair held at Prayagraj every 12 years means ‘Kumbh- Mela’. The history of tradition of holding ‘Kumbh Mela’ is older than culture of Sindhu valley. There is a holy confluence of 3 Rivers viz. Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati at Prayagraj, a place of pilgrimage which is also known as ‘Triveni Sangam’. From Vedic times, ‘Triveni Sangam’ is known as a holy place of Hindus. Every year, in the Hindu month of ‘Magha’, a fair is held at this holy ‘Triveni Sangam’ which is known as ‘Magh-Mela’ and during every 12th year, ‘Kumbh Mela’ and every 6th year, ‘Ardh Kumbh Mela’ is held here. This Kumbh-Parva (Period)’ is celebrated in every 12th year at Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Nashik. ‘Kumbh Mela’ is known all over the world.

1. Kumbh Mela : Tradition followed for thousands of years

Presently, ‘Kumbh Mela’ is the biggest religious fair in the world. It is difficult to say when it exactly started. Ascetics gather here for taking bath on the new moon day of ‘Magh’ month. In Holy Scriptures also there is a mention of ‘Kumbh Mela’. In ‘Narada-Puranas’, ‘Kumbha-Mela’ has been referred to be very good.

A. According to few scholars, this fair started in 3464 BC i.e. it is a tradition existing 1000 years prior to Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro culture.

B. In 2382 BC, Vishwamitra (second) stated importance of having holy bath on ‘Magh Pournima’.

C. In 1302 BC, Maharshi Jyotish impressed upon people the importance of holy bath on ‘Magh Pournima’.

D. Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang has also described ‘Kumbh- Mela’ in his book. In his book, there is description of his journey taken in 629 BC as ‘Bharatyatra’ wherein there is a mention of Hindus fair at Prayag in the kingdom of Emperor Harshvardhan. 

2. Jagatguru Adi Shankaracharya gave Vedic form to ‘Kumbh Mela’

Jagatguru Adi Shankaracharya first started celebration of Hindus’ religious festivals as Indian festivals motivating Saints and religious leaders from different sects and following different religions to take part in the same. With his inspiration, the Saints and religious leaders from various parts of the country and different religions and Sects started taking part. By giving Vedic form to it, Adi Shankaracharya conferred more prestige to it and hence it got more recognition and participation of Saints and religious leaders in ‘Kumbh Mela’ increased. In the year 1515, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had come here from Bengal. In this fair, followers of Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism also take part. Nowadays, even foreign nationals join this fair with lot of enthusiasm.

3. Definition of the word ‘Kumbh’

‘Kumbh’ means a pot which is a symbol of purity/ sacredness and well-being : The literal meaning of ‘Kumbh’ is a ‘kalash (pot)’. Since ‘kalash’ is a symbol of purity and well-being, it is also called ‘Mangal kalash’. In Astrology, the word ‘Kumbh’ is used for a zodiac sign. In the context of ‘Kumbh-parva’, astrological meaning is also accepted.

4. Religious and spiritual importance of ‘Kumbh’

'Kumbh' is an abode of Sea, Earth and all 4 ‘Vedas’ : Sages, Saints and Brahmins have honored ‘Kumbh’ as a symbol of greatness of Deities, natural wealth, materialistic prosperity, grace of Sree and Lakshmi and a storage of knowledge and science. As per the science, ‘Kumbh’ is an abode of Deities. In the opening of ‘Kumbha’, there is abode of Bhagavan Sri Vishnu; in its neck, abode of Sri Mahadev and at its base, there is abode of Sri Brahmadev. It is also stated that in the centre of ‘Kumbh’, there is abode of all Deities, all Seas, Mountains, Earth and 4 ‘Vedas’; therefore, ‘Kumbh’ has religious and spiritual importance.

5. Importance of ‘Kumbh’ as per the ‘Puranas’

War was fought by ‘Devas (Gods)’ and ‘Asuras (Demons)’ at the time of ‘Samudra-manthan’ for obtaining the ‘kalash’ of nectar : There is history of war between ‘Devas’ and ‘Asuras’ hidden in the story related to ‘Kumbh’ in ‘Puranas’. 14 precious stones/ things were obtained during ‘Samudra-manthan (churning of the Sea)’ in which was included this ‘kalash (Kumbh)’ with nectar. War was fought between them to obtain this ‘Kumbh’. During ‘Kumbh-parva’, this ‘Kumbh’ is also remembered.

6. One can read importance of places of pilgrimage which offer various benefits even in ‘Vedas’

a. One can attain heaven by taking holy bath at Prayag and making offerings. – Many devotees offer different services at places of pilgrimage and perform sacred fires to attain ‘Swarg (heaven)’.

b. A person can face most difficult hardships with ease by staying at places of pilgrimage.

c. When the holy water (teertha) at such places is drunk with utmost faith and devotion, it helps to absolve one from his sins. 

d. By having holy bath and undertaking meditation, one gets the energy emitted by evolved Sages residing in Himalayas which helps at all levels. One also gets rid of many ailments and hardships. Many people have experienced that they acquired mental peace at these places. 

7. Devotees get benefit of four main ‘Parvas (Period)’ at this ‘Kumbh Mela’ of Prayagraj

There are 4 main ‘Parvas’ viz. ‘Makar-Sankrant’, ‘Amavasya (new moon day)’, ‘Vasant-Panchami’ and Maghi Pournima. Bath taken on these days has special significance.

Om Tat Sat

(My humble salutations to Hindu Jagruti for the collection)


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