Did you know that the Kumbh Mela is the largest peaceful congregation of pilgrims and devotees in the world? Right now, there is a Kumbh Mela happening at Prayagraj (previously Allahabad) and it is mind blowing!
Indian mythology has always been fascinating. A lot of our traditions and customs are based in science and theory. There is a reason why our ancestors did what they did. We used to scoff at our grandparents and their beliefs but now we know better. For example, turmeric has been used in Indian houses for centuries. We didn’t think it was great till the western world just started loving and using turmeric. The same has happened for Ghee. Whenever we went to villages or our native places, we were served meals loaded with ghee. As kids we used to hate it or find it fattening. Now research has been shown to prove the benefits of Ghee. Western world is also waking up to its benefits. There is so much more that our culture and tradition has to offer. The Kumbh Mela is a huge part of our past, tradition and history. We have grown up hearing and reading about it, this massive meeting of people sharing the same faith. Here’s what you need to know about the Kumbh Mela.
Kumbh means ‘pot’ in Hindi or Sanskrit. The astrological sign ‘Aquarius’ is also called ‘Kumbh.’ Some sources and records believe it is called Kumbh Mela after the astrological sign. Since the fair (Mela) is held in January it can be believed that was the intention. But legend has it that between an epic battle fought among the Gods (Devas) and the Demons (Asuras) for a pot of nectar. The nectar would provide the drinker with immortality. The Gods won the pot but dropped a few drops of the ‘nectar’ near a river. It is at that exact location that the Kumbh Mela is held.
Twist- There are 4 Kumbh Melas! Isn’t that amazing and awesome?
The four Kumbh Melas are Prayagraj Kumbh Mela, Haridwar Kumbh Mela, Nasik Kumbh Mela and Ujjain Kumbh Mela. The festival is always held near a river or on the banks of a river. This is so that pilgrimage attendees and devotees can take a bath in the holy river. The action of having a bath or dip can wash your sins. At Haridwar and Prayagraj, the Mela is held every 12 years. Once in 6 years, an Ardh Kumbh is also held at these places. The current Kumbh Mela happening at Prayagraj is the Ardh Kumbh. The pilgrimage allows people of the same faith to get together and celebrate. It is also a great opportunity for tourists and travelers to experience Hindu culture at its peak. Saints, speakers, artists, gurus from all over India make their way to the Mela. They hold discourses, workshops and discuss nuances in the Hindu religion and history. Attending the Mela is called a cathartic experience as it opens your eyes to something bigger than you.
The Kumbh Mela this year has merged the old with the new as it explores ways of reaching the youth. Street artists from India have taken over Prayagraj and covered the walls in beautiful Indian art. You can find pictures of Indian myths, deities, gods and legends depicted wonderfully. Prayagraj is supposed to be the oldest and biggest of the venues to have a Kumbh Mela. It has the confluence of the 3 holy rivers- Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati. The dates of each Mela are decided by priests after consulting the charts, lunar and solar rotations and auspicious time. Getting a real count of number of visitors attending the Mela is difficult. The approximate number of people who attended the Mela last time was a whopping 120 million! The number is only expected to increase this year. The Indian and UP State Government have spent $400 million to support the festival and ensure its smooth running.