All About Kumbh Mela
The Kumbh Mela is probably the biggest Hindu festival celebrated four times in a 12-year time span. In fact, the pilgrimage rotates around four sacred river banks. These are the Ganges River in Haridwar, the Godavari in Nashik, Shipra in Ujjain, and Prayag. The Prayag is the confluence between the Ganges, Jamuna, and the Saraswati.
In a gist, the rituals involve dipping in the sacred rivers to cleanse one’s sins. At the end of this dip, the pilgrim is said to have received prayascitta, or atonement for past sins.
According to the Puranas, the Kumbh Mela began as a fight between the demons and the gods over a Kumbh containing amrita; a pot filled with the elixir of immortality made when the demons, gods churned the ocean. Spilt during the fight, the drops of this elixir created the four sacred sites and filled the rivers with purity and auspiciousness.
Jupiter, the leader of the gods, helped get the elixir back. This is why he is given significance; each time Jupiter enters the Kumbha constellation or the Aquarius star constellation every 12 years, and this marks the mela celebrations.
Tradition also describes how the 8th-century philosopher Shankara gathered ascetics for debate, creating the Kumbh Mela’s first recordings. Now pilgrims gather to bathe in rivers and purify themselves.
Bathing in the rivers is the main ritual when worshippers attain moksha in these holy waters. Moksha means the liberation from the birth till death cycle. At the Kumbh Mela, a big tent is set up on the Prayagraj delta and covers millions of people who dip themselves in the river.
Big processions begin gathering around the banks, and the dipping begins. Other activities keep on going alongside, like religious discussions, initiations of new ascetics, devotional songs, and hymns, prayers to Lord Shiva, mass feedings of the holy men that attend the festivities.
February is seen as the holiest day, with millions lining the riverbanks at early dawn before sunrise. Three kinds of ascetics attend this festival to attain enlightenment and can be recognized by their matted hair; ash coated bodies: Urdhawavahurs, Nagas, and Kalpwasis.
Held in the 6th year is the Ardh Kumbh Mela or half mela. January and February see the celebration of the Maagh Mela in Sangam. When held in the 6th and 12th year, the Magh Mela is often called the Ardh Kumbh Mela or Kumbh Mela.
Bathing dates are decided beforehand. It’s to follow the astrological signs and to accommodate the teeming millions.Religious and astrological predictions go into deciding new dates each year. So, while it is normally held every 12 years the locations, it is possible for the mela to happen just one year apart as well.
There are three bathing dates: the Makar Sankranti, the Mauni Amavasya, and the Basant Panchami. Bathing areas along the banks barricaded the dippings don’t happen randomly. There are certain rituals and order to be followed by all present. For example, the saints and the ascetics take the first Shahi Snan or Royal Bathing.
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