Kumbha Mela is a religious festival in India where Hindu followers come together and take bath in the holy river. This is a festival which should be experienced by each and every Hindu follower at least once in their lifetime. There are four major Melas that take place in India – one is Ujjain Simhastha, Haridwar Kumbha Mela, Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Simhastha and the last one Allahabad Mela. Kumbha melas will be conducted by the banks of a river. Kumbha Mela will be conducted at these places in specific time with a rotation policy. Haridwar Kumbha Mela will be held on the banks of Ganga, Allahabad Mela at the banks of Yamuna, Nashik Mela at Godavari’s banks and Ujjain Kumbha Mela at the Shipra river banks. These rivers are mentioned in the famous Indian Puranas and it is believed that taking bath in them will purify you by cleansing your sins.
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Kumbha Mela is conducted once in every 12 years. Nashik and Haridwar melas take place every three years. Ujjain and Nashik melas take place almost in the same year or in one-year difference. The dates of Kumbhmela has to be decided after considering many things. To fix the date the astrologers check the Vikram Samvat calendar. The Sun, Moon, and Jupiter should come in a specific position for the Kumbh Mela to happen. When ‘Leo’ comes into the planet, Ujjain and Nashik Mela take place. ‘Simha’ means ‘Leo’ that’s why these two Melas known as Simhastha. ‘Ardha’ Kumbha Mela takes place once in every six years. It takes place in Allahabad and Haridwar. But the great Kumbha Mela or Maha Kumbha Mela is conducted once in every 144 years. Actually, these are known Kumbha Melas, but some of the events termed as Kumbha Mela by local priests like the Mahayanam festival of Kumbakonam is also called Kumbhamela.
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It is not recorded or known when this festival started, but this has been happening for many years now. There are many stories behind it, but the most popular one is related to Dhanwanthari. The Asuras and Devas had fought for Amrutha that was churned out from the ocean. Later, when Devas collected it in a Kumbha, they wanted this to be kept in a safe place so that the Asuras cannot get it. So Dhanwanthari, who is known as the divine doctor, took this pot. But he stopped at these four places where later the Kumbha Mela was introduced. Another story is that Garuda picked the pot of Amrutha and flew away to keep it safe. But on his way, it got spilled at these four places. Later these became the holy rivers and Kumbha Mela started happening on their banks.
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There were many riverside festivals in India from ancient days itself. So it’s not easy to calculate the exact year when the Kumbh Melas started. But some of the researchers from abroad have given some incidents which creates confusion whether it was a Hindu festival or a Buddhist festival. Records show that in 644 CE, the festival was conducted by Emperor Harsha, who was known to be a Buddhist. This used to be held every 5 years or so but not sure about the year when the current Kumbha Mela was started.
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Haridwar Kumbha is the actual Kumbha Mela where they calculate as per the Calendar, zodiac signs and Jupiter connections into it. It is believed that the Kumbha Mela was started during the end of the 17th century or the beginning of the 18th century. Kumbhmela is supposedly known as the largest religious festival in the world. It is not easy to find the correct numbers of participants but it could be around 110 million people who have participated in the last festival last time. More than 20 million pilgrims visited on a single day last time. This festival took place for 2 months and people not only from India but Hindu followers from around the world come and participates in this event.
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