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Kumbh Mela

18 January, 2019

Kumbh Mela
, Festivals

You surely must have been reading a lot about the Kumbh Mela that is currently going on in Prayagraj. It is considered to be one of the largest human gatherings anywhere in the world. The 2011 Kumbh Mela, called the Maha Kumbh Mela happening once in 144 years, was photographed by a satellite from space as well. The current Kumbh Mela, which is the Ardha Kumbh is said to be one of the cleanest and well organized to date.

People from all over the world flock to the holy cities of Prayagraj (earlier Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik to see and partake in this huge human gathering, especially as Prayagraj is considered to the holiest. Many consider the blessings of sadhus attending this Mela to be of great importance. Also, taking the sacred bath or the ‘Shahi Snan’ during this period is something of a great spiritual experience.  Also, some ceremonies, including the traditional procession of Akharas called ‘Peshwai’ take place here. The procession includes people on elephant backs, horses, chariots, and they carry shining swords, etc. Another famous aspect of this gathering is the Naga Sadhus and their rituals. Many other cultural activities also happen along the sidelines, and it is a good time to visit these cities.

The history

The name Kumbh Mela is derived from the Kumbh with which this ritual is associated with. The Kumbh here is none other than the Kumbh or the pot of nectar over which the gods and demons fought ferociously. The nectar or Amrit was said to provide immortality and hence the gods and demons, who had together churned the ocean and made Dhanvantari appear with the pot, vied for it.

It is said that the Asuras or the demons, snatched this pot and in the frantic chase, a few drops fell in four places, namely, Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik. The pursuit is said to have lasted 12 days (the human equivalent of 12 years) and 12 nights and these places gained some mystical powers due to the drops of nectar fallen there. Hence, the Kumbh Mela happens once every 12 years in these places, on the banks of river Ganga in Haridwar, river Godavari in Nasik, river Kshipra in Ujjain and the Triveni Sangam of Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati in Prayagraj.

The dates to watch out for

A dip in the river during this period is considered very auspicious and is said to wipe away a person’s sins. One of the most auspicious days in the current Kumbh Mela for taking the “Shahi Snan,” happened to be the Makara Sankranthi day, which just passed by. The other dates to watch out for are Paush Purnima which falls in 21st Jan, Mauni Amavasya on 4th February, Basant Panchami on 19th February, Maghi Purnima on 9th February, and Mahashivarathri on 4th March. The 4th March day also marks the end of the current Kumbh Mela.

How to reach

If you are planning to travel to Prayagraj during this period, it is well connected by train, bus, and flight as well. While there are ten listed railway stations in and around the city, the airport is about 12 km away in Bamrauli. There are also special Kumbh flights arranged for the ease of the pilgrims as well.

The government has set up few tent cities going by the name of Kalpa Vriksh, Kumbh Canvas, Vedic Tent City, and Indraprastham City. The contact details are available in the official government site for this - https://kumbh.gov.in/ (available in English and Hindi).  Along with this, the complete list of hotels that provides stay bed and food are also listed here. If interested you may also see nearby attractions like Chitrakoot, Varanasi, Ayodhya, and Vindhyanchal. With the government going all out for a Swacch Kumbh and using the technology to make things easier for the pilgrims, this may be one of the best times to get your Kumbh Mela experience.

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