Kumbh Mela is one of the largest peaceful spiritual gathering events in the world. It is one of the most important bathing festivals or pilgrimages in Hinduism. This festival is celebrated in a cycle of every 12 years (approx).
Here, we share with you Kumbh Mela’s significance. Let’s get started.
Kumbh Mela is celebrated at four major riverbank pilgrimage sites such as:
- Prayagraj (Allahabad) (Ganges, Yamuna, and the Saraswati Rivers confluence)
- Haridwar (Ganges)
- Nashik (Godavari)
- Ujjain (Shipra)
The Kumbh Mela is symbolized by a ritual dip in the waters. It is believed that bathing in these rivers relieves the devotees from their past mistakes.
There’s even much more to Kumbh Mela as fairs are organized, religious discourses are given by saints, and mass feeding is done for the monks or the poor.
So, on the whole, Kumbh Mela offers an entertainment spectacle.
Approximately 50 million people attended the Allahabad Ardha Kumbh Mela, which was held in 2019.
This festival is believed to be started by the 8th-century Hindu Philosopher & Saint Sri Adi Shankara.
Kumbh Mela is based on the Hindu lunisolar calendar and is held as per the astrological positions of Jupiter, Sun, and Moon.
The Prayag and Haridwar Kumbh Melas are held at a gap of 6 years. Both these sites feature a Maha (major) and Ardha (half) Kumbh Melas.
The significant majority of pilgrims at Kumbh Melas usually participate around three dates. For example, the Amavasya date attracts the largest number on a single day. However, the festival lasts between one to three months around these dates.
This festival attracts millions of devotees.
The largest gathering is held at the Prayag Kumbh Mela, and the second largest is held at Haridwar.
The “Kumbh” in Kumbh Mela is associated with the nectar of immortality. In fact, the word Kumbh is mentioned in the Rig Veda (verse 10.89. 7), Yajur Veda (verse 19.16), Sama Veda (verse 6.3), and Atharva Veda (verse 19.53.3). It can also be found in other Vedic and post-Vedic ancient Sanskrit literature. Moreover, the term refers to the zodiac sign of Aquarius.
The literal meaning of Kumbh Mela is as follows:
- Kumbh meaning “pitcher or pot” in Sanskrit
- Mela meaning “assembly, community celebration, unite, or junction” in Sanskrit
So, Kumbh Mela means assembly around water or nectar of immortality.
Mythologically Kumbh Mela is related to the Samudra Manthan (i.e., the ocean’s churning) found in the Vedic texts. The forces of good and evil (Devtas and Asuras) churned the ocean for the pot of amrita (nectar of immortality). They fight over this pot (Kumbh) for gaining immortality. The pot was spilled at four places, and that’s how the origin of the Kumbh Melas came into being.
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Evolution of Kumbh Melas
According to some Hindu scholars, bathing festivals (like Kumbh Melas) at Prayag started in the middle of the first millennium CE.
Even the Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas mentions an annual Mela in Prayag.
The late 16th-century Tabaqat-i-Akbari also mentions an annual bathing festival at Prayag (Sangam), where different Hindus classes came from different parts of the country to bathe in large numbers.
Other Mughal era texts such as Khulasat-ut-Tawarikh (1695–1699 CE),, and Chahar Gulshan (1759 CE) also contain the term “Kumbh Mela” in Haridwar’s context. They also mention a bathing festival at Prayag and Nashik.
In fact, the Khulasat-ut-Tawarikh mentions the following Melas:
- An annual Mela at Haridwar
- Kumbh Mela (every 12 years) at Haridwar
- A Mela at Trimbak (Nashik) when Jupiter enters Leo
- An annual Mela at Prayag in Magh
The bathing pilgrimage Mela at Nashik and Ujjain were referred to as Singhastha Mela.
The Kumbh Mela at Haridwar is regarded as the original Kumbh Mela, which was held according to the astrological sign of “Kumbh” (Aquarius) in a cycle of every 12 years.
The Magh Mela of Prayag was regarded as the oldest among the four modern-day Kumbh Melas. It has also been mentioned in several early Puranas.
The earliest British reference to the Kumbh Mela in Prayag can be found in an 1868 report.
The Kumbh Melas in Nashik and Ujjain evolved from their pre-existing Magha Melas.
The phrases like “Maha Kumbh” and “Ardh Kumbh” were related to a much modern era.
Significance of Kumbh Mela
As per Hindu mythology, once the Devas were stripped of all their powers. They wanted to regain their strength. So, they agreed with the demons to churn the mighty oceans for obtaining the ‘Amrit’ – the nectar of immortality.
It was decided between the Devas and the Asuras that the ‘Amrit’ would be shared equally.
However, the Devas and the Asuras were not able to come to a consensus. Eventually, they fought with each other for 12 years.
During this time, the celestial bird Garuda flew away with the Amrit pot or Kumbh.
It is believed that few drops of this nectar fell at Prayag (Allahabad), Uttar Pradesh; Haridwar, Uttarakhand; Nashik, Maharashtra; and Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh.
The Kumbh Mela celebrations take place in these four prime places on a rotational basis.
Moreover, according to Hindu Astrology, the path of Jupiter in the sky is considered to be sacred.
The movement of Jupiter is from Aquarius, Taurus, Scorpio, and Leo. When Jupiter enters Aquarius, the Kumbh Mela is held. In fact, it takes three earth years for Jupiter to move from one constellation to another.
It should be noted that Aquarius is symbolized as a pot that pours elixir on earth.
Types of Kumbh Mela
There are as many as five types of Kumbh Melas which are as follows:
- Maha Kumbh Mela
It is held once every 144 years after 12 Purna Kumbh Melas. It is held only in Prayagraj. It was last celebrated in 2013.
- Purna Kumbh Mela
It is celebrated after every 12 years in Allahabad.
- Ardha Kumbh
It is held after every six years, which is halfway between the celebrations of Purna Kumbh. It is celebrated only in Allahabad and Haridwar.
- Kumbh Mela
It is celebrated in four different places at Prayagraj, Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain. The Sun and Jupiter’s astrological positioning go on to decide in which city the Mela would be held.
- Magh Mela
Magh Mela is linked with the creation of the Universe. It is held every year on the Triveni Sangam; it is held in the Hindu calendar’s Magh month.
In fact, the event of Kumbh is celebrated in the four cities when the following astrological situation prevails:
- When Jupiter enters the Aquarius constellation, and the Sun moves to the Aries constellation, Kumbh is held in Haridwar
- When Jupiter enters Leo, it is held at Nashik
- When Jupiter moves into Leo and Sun into Aries, Kumbh is held in Ujjain
- When Sun enters Capricorn and Jupiter in Taurus, the Kumbh Mela is held in Prayagraj.
Rituals at the Kumbh Mela
Devotion to rivers is shown by performing Aarti on the riverbanks. Thousands of people take part in these Aartis with tremendous zeal and faith.
It is performed in the mornings and evenings wherein priests chant hymns by holding magnificent lamps.
Deep Daan is the offering of earthen lamps at river sites with the aim of spreading spirituality. It is one of the most essential activities at the Kumbh.
Snana or holy bath is the most important ritual at the Kumbh. It is said that taking a dip in rivers’ sacred waters relieves them of all their sins.
It frees devotees from the cycle of birth and death and helps them to attain Moksha. In fact, Akharas (Sadhus) members take part in the Shahi Snana at the start of the Kumbh.
Major Attractions at the Kumbh Mela
- Akharas and Sadhus
- Late Night Experience
- Camp Life
- Delicious Food
The hearts of devotees are filled with extreme joy whenever they come to attend the Kumbh Mela.
So, that’s all in this post on Kumbh Mela Significance. We hope that you found the post beneficial. Thanks for visiting us.