Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Kumbh Mela

One of the greatest Hindu religious occasions, the Kumbh Mela is held after every four years and is of great spiritual significance for the Hindus in India.

The Kumbh Mela is not a single event that is organised at regular intervals. While the Kumbh Mela is normally held after every four years, the Purna Kumbh Mela falls after every 12 years and is of greater importance than the Kumbh Mela. As per ancient Hindu mythology, some planets that are believed to affect the destiny of the human race align every 12 years and the Purna Kumbh Mela is held exactly during the time of this powerful planetary alignment. The Purna Kumbha is organised by turns at Haridwar in Uttar Pradesh, Prayag( near Allahabad) in Uttar Pradesh, Nasik in Maharastra and Ujjaini in Madhya Pradesh. The site for every Purna Kumbh is decided by the ascetics who jointly study the planetary positions and agree upon the location of observance. The Ardh Kumbha Mela(Half Kumbha Mela) is held after every six years or halfway between two Purna kumbh Melas; hence the name.

But the most important Kumbh Mela is the Maha Kumbh Mela(Great Kumbh Mela), that periodically falls every 144 years or after 12 Purna Kumbh Melas, and is held at Allahabad. A rarest of rare occassion, the Maha Kumbh Mela is looked upon by most Hindus as a once in a lifetime occassion that one can attend only with great fortune.

The Maha Kumbh Mela (Great Kumbh Mela) is organised at Prayag which is located near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. During this time, millions of devotees converge here to take a ceremonial dip in the Triveni Sangam - the confluence of the three great rivers Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati meet. It is accepted to be the spot where four drops of the sacred nectar had fallen during the battle between the Devas (demigods) and Asuras(demons) over the Amrit-Kumbh(pot of nectar). The place is attended by millions of people who perform rituals here and also a take a ritual bath. The bathing is done in the open with complete submersion of the body under water and performing an oblation to the sun.

Religious Hindus attach great importance to this bathing ceremony and it forms the most important ritual of the Maha Kumbh Mela as also of the other Kumbh Melas. According to a popular legend, Lord Brahma (the God of Creation in Hindu Mythology) once proclaimed that taking a dip in the holy River Ganga can liberate mankind from its sins. The Hindus believe that bathing in the sacred waters at the Kumbh Mela will purge them and their ancestors back to the eighty-eighth generation off all evil and sin. This would make them suitable to attain moksha (salvation) from the cycle of life, death and rebirth.

The inner significance of this ritual bath lies in understanding the true implication of the Samudra-Manthan episode. The "amrit" or nectar implies the divine knowledge and strength that lies within each of us. The churning of the ocean symbolizes that each of us must judiciously churn our own inner self to gain this knowledge.

The other important activities associated to the Maha Kumbh Mela include singing of bhajans (devotional songs), discussions on religious matters, mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor, and gatherings where religious doctrines are debated and determined.

The recent Maha Kumbh Mela was held in 2001 at Prayag, the holiest of the four spots where the sacred drops of amrit are said to have fallen. This was the first Maha Kumbh of the 21st century and also of this millennium. The grand religious congregation was attended by around 60 million people, consisting of men, women and children, thousands of sadhus (monks) and also more than 65,000 foreigners from abroad (curious to get a glimpse of this grand affair). The astounding number of the total people gathered makes the Maha Kumbh Mela 2001 the largest gathering anywhere in the history of the world till date.

Why Kumbh Mela ?

Kumbh Mela - The Largest Congregation of Humanity :
Kumbh Mela is the largest concentration of religious gathering in the world. Held once in 12 years this festival is a must visit during a trip to India.

Take a Dip Make a Wish:
If you go by the Hindu mythologies, then this is the only time and place in the world where you can unburden your sins and achieve 'Nirvana' from the vicious cycle of birth and re birth. Take dips in the holy water of Ganges that is said to wash away all the sins of a person. Light a Diya and make a wish, they do come true!

Sojourn on the Ashrams on the Banks:
To live among the Sadhus, who have dedicated their entire lives in meditation and fulfilling spiritual deeds is indeed a unique experience of life. In Haridwar there are many such Ashrams where tourists can stay to enjoy the life of a saint besides indulging into various Yoga and Meditation regimes.

Surrender to Peaceful Activities:

Taking dips three times in a day, attending yoga classes, listening to the divine lectures and participating in the cultural programmes are just a few of the activities that one can enjoy during the famous Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. Travel to Haridwar and experience the inexperienced.

Significance of Kumbh Mela:
Kumbh Mela is not just a mere festivity like Diwali and Holi, but holds lot of importance for people in India. People look up to Kumbh Mela with highest regard, as this event gives them a golden opportunity to liberate themselves from the miseries and sufferings of life. It enables them to take a holy dip in the sacred water and wash away all the sins they have committed in the past. People come from different parts of the country to be a part of this sacred ceremony. It is believed that taking a holy dip in water paves way for attainment of Moksha.

Rig Veda has a mention about the significance of convergence of river Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati at Prayag or Sangam.

References can be found about the significance of this ritual in Varaha Purana and Matsya Purana as well. There is a belief that the ashram of the learned Bharadvaja, where Lord Ram, Laxman and Sita lived at the time of their exile, was situated at Sangam. It is said that a number of saints including the great Shankaracharya and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited Sangam and observed the Kumbh Mela. The great Indian epics such the Ramayana and Mahabharata have mentioned that a yagna was conducted by Lord Brahma at Sangam.

Sacred Bath in Kumbh Mela:
Bathing in the holy river on the auspicious occasion of Kumbh Mela is the most important activity for millions of people in India. A large tented city is erected and pilgrims stay at tents owned by Pandas (religious and spiritual guides) and at various ashrams. Others will just camp on the ground or turn up for the actual bathing day. Some of these bathing days are designated "royal," and it is on these days that the naga sadhus (naked mendicants) parade and bathe. On other days there will still be people bathing and other events and random processions.

Rituals Performed at the Kumbh Mela:
The main ritual performed at that Kumbh Mela is the ritual bath. Hindus believe that submerging themselves in the sacred waters on the most auspicious day of the new moon will absolve them and their ancestors of sin, thus ending the cycle of rebirth. Pilgrims start lining up to bathe from around 3 a.m. on this day.

As the sun comes up, the different groups of sadhus move in procession towards the river to bathe. The Nagas usually lead, while each group tries to outdo the others with more grandeur and fanfare. The moment is magical, and everyone is absorbed in it.

After bathing, the pilgrims wear fresh clothes and proceed to worship by the river bank. They then walk around listening to discourses from the various sadhus.

What are the Allahabad Maha Kumbh Mela 2013 Dates?

Every day during the Mela is auspicious for bathing. However, the dates that have special significance and are thus the most auspicious, are as follows:
Sunday January 27, 2013 (Paush Purnima)
Wednesday February 6, 2013 (Ekadashi Snan)
Sunday February 10, 2013 (Mauni Amavasya Snan)
Friday February 15, 2013 (Basant Panchami Snan)
Sunday February 17, 2013 (Rath Saptami Snan)
Thursday February 21, 2013 (Bhisma Ekadashi Snan)
Monday February 25, 2013 (Maghi Purnima Snan)

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