Kumbh Mela

The largest spiritual and religious gathering on the planet is Kumbh Mela in India. The Kumbh Melas are held since several thousand years every 12th year in Prayag (Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh), Haridwar (Uttarakhand), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh) & Nasik (Maharashtra). Three occasions or dates Makar Sankarnti, Paush Purnima and Mauni Amavasya are considered most pious and the Hindu pilgrims take holy dip in the respective rivers - Ganga, Kshipra and Godavari. Mauni Amavasya, the Purna Kumbha day, as it is popularly called, is supposed to be the most auspicious day of the three and is the date on which the number of pilgrims attains its peak in Kumbh Mela at Prayag. Among all the four Kumbh Melas, one that is held in Prayag is the biggest and most famous. During these auspicious days, the mammoth churn of the pilgrims can be gauged by the fact the eye cannot discern the smallest patch of water for the sea of heads mass together! Those who are unable to come on the other days, throng to it avidly on this day of days — of Purna Kumbh — as it was widely believed that by bathing on this day they can win swift absolution. Kumbh Mela in Prayag (Allahabad), the most grandiose among the four Kumbh Melas, offers an incredible vista and breath-taking drama, day after marvelous day. Kumbh Mela presents a veritable revelation of India's soul which, in spite of the deep ravages of time and the persistent follies of the human ego, is still as young and sane as ever. One of the chief reasons why the sadhus at the Kumbha Mela exercise the minds of millions and overawe many a skeptic, is their inexplicable success in living, as it were, on nothing, since ages and time immemorial. Hindu sages, saints and sadhus that gather here in Kumbh Mela seems to be near yet far-off, unassertive and yet challenging, non-interfering yet subversive of all our intellectual concepts! Their beckoning seems to be like that of stars — a call we can indeed, dismiss as intangible, but never ignore as something of no importance. Yes, they are disturbing, yet strangely fortifying !

The dates and duration of Kumbh Mela in the four cities Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik are calculated on the basis of Hindu astronomical calculations……

Kumbh Mela in Prayag (Allahabad) in Uttar Pradesh on the banks of the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna & invisible Saraswati is held when Jupiter is in Aries or Taurus and the Sun and Moon are in Capricorn during the Hindu month of Magha (January-February).

Kumbh Mela in Haridwar in Uttarakhand on the banks of the River Ganga takes place when Jupiter is in Aquarius and the Sun is in Aries during the Hindu month of Caitra (March-April).

Kumbh Mela in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh on the banks of the River Kshipra is organized when Jupiter is in Leo and the Sun is in Aries, or when Jupiter, the Sun, and the Moon are in Libra during the Hindu month of Vaishakha (April-May)

Kumbh Mela in Nasik in Maharashra on the banks of the River Godavari is held when Jupiter and the Sun are in Leo in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada (August-September)

Kumbh As A Symbol

Kumbh is a Sanskrit word that gets translated into Hindi as Ghat or Ghada and in English as ‘pitcher’. Purna Kumbh means full pitcher and Ardha Kumbh means half-filled pitcher. The Purna Kumbh is one among highly revelatory symbols which have at all times held a fascination for millions of mystics in India. The Purna Kumbh is symbolic of Nectar. Nectar, as the legend goes, came out after Samudra Manthan (churning of sea) by the gods and the demons. The taste of Necatar makes a being immortal. The saints describe Nectar as the knowledge of the Eternal which ultimately leads to ‘moksha’- freedom from the cycle of rebirths. Purna-Kumbh is cherished by our mystics as a symbol of the wisdom that leads to a silence which stems not from vacuity but from plenitude.

History of Kumbh Mela

Nobody knows exactly when the legend of the Kumbh festival first became crystallized and began attracting pilgrims, but concrete historical evidences show that the great Chinese traveler-historian Hiuen Tsang (otherwise Yuan Chwang) who came to India in the seventh century, witnessed this magnificent religious festival at Prayag (Allahabad), for he has left a graphic account of it. He writes that about half a million people gathered round about the confluence on that occasion and that the ceremony , lasted for seventy-five days. The pilgrims comprised people from almost all ranks of life — from the Emperor Harsha Vardhan with his ministers and tributary chieftains, down to the beggar in rags. Among the participants, there were the heads of the various religious sects, as well as, philosophers, scholars, ascetics and spiritual aspirants, from all walks of life. The Emperor performed all the rites with great éclat and ceremoniously distributed the wealth of his treasury to people of all denominations on the ground, at the junction of the Ganges and the Yamuna, where the great fair is now held usually. Harsha was in the habit of making such distributions every five years, and the celebration in which Hiuen Tsang assisted was the sixth of the reign. The date of this celebration was 644 A.D., so that it can be taken as the first account of the Kumbh Mela in recorded history. It is possible, however, that Harsha did not initiate the festival, but only adopted it and gave it a royal fillip in order to promote religious fervour among the people. It may be presumed that it has continued ever since down to our own day.

In the ninth century the great Shankaracharya gave it the final shape by the force of his magic personality. He first of all established the four well-known monasteries - Jyotirmath in the north, Sringerimath in the south, Govardhana Math in the east, and Sharada Math in the west. In each of these centers which he had created with the express purpose of advancing the cause of monotheism were classified into ten orders (dashnami) : Saraswati, Puri, Bana, Tirtha, Gin, Parvata, Bharati, Aranya, Ashrama and Sagara. In each of these he nominated a head who was to guide the sadhus under his charge. These were exhorted to assemble regularly at the Kumbh Mela, with the two-fold purpose of maintaining contact with the sadhus of other denominations and fortifying the spiritual aspirants. The people responded enthusiastically, for they were thus given the two-fold opportunity of winning fresh inspiration through consorting with the sadhus and redemptive bathing in the sacred rivers.

Reasons Behind Kumbh Festival

The Kumbh Mela fulfill another highly important function which today is nearly lost sight of, but which is none-the-less remarkable, both from the historical and the spiritual point of view. The sadhus not only inspire us, the spiritual seekers, individually, but they play a highly important social part as well, by having acted throughout the ages as our monitors and legislators. The Lord speaks in the Gita of the ideal of ‘lokasangraha’ which means holding people together by giving them day-to-day guidance. This has all along been achieved by our sadhus qua lawmakers, for it was they who first enunciated the codes of social conduct which the kings only stepped in later to enforce. We, in India, never appeal to lawyers and the so-called practical men to lay down the laws which are to regulate our lives: we look exclusively to our spiritual leaders to formulate those codes and canons of conduct and justice by which our daily lives are to be governed and our spiritual evolution expedites. But in those days, it was by no means easy to travel from one place to another and the sadhus lived far apart from one another. So it was that they agreed to foregather periodically in order to discuss ways and means of giving practical guidance to the ordinary man through such legislation and reform as might be called for. These conferences of sadhus may be compared to the sessions of our modern Parliaments which pass new bills when needed and repeal such vogues as are outmoded. Their ways differed from ours only in this that the authority they wielded came from above and not, as in our days, from below. In other words, the sadhus' rulings were accepted not because they were the elected representatives of the ignorant — which they were not — but because they were the accredited servants of the Light which prevailed because the common man's humility made him intuitively receptive to its lead. This highly important function of such spiritual congregations is often ignored even by its beneficiaries.

Behind it all lies a long tradition, and this tradition — cherished and tended in India when her culture, learning and wisdom were at their peak — was handed down to us by some of the greatest thinkers, seers and God-realized men- the world has ever seen. It is true that these beliefs have to some extent lost their original significance, but they abide with us still as enduring- reminders of a great past. No matter what the driving motives were for the masses, their superstitions and muddled thinking notwithstanding, it proves beyond question that spirituality as the highest ideal in life has not died out; and this is because Hinduism is founded, not on blind superstitions, but on rational and super-rational grounds. A salient feature of Hinduism is its astonishing tolerance which has enabled it to absorb so many foreign ideals, ideas and cultures, while retaining its own rich individuality. The basis of Hinduism is spirituality, not a sectarian creed. Again and again we find in history that some of the greatest saints who have been worshipped by the Hindus, were anything but Hindus by birth. The attainment of the spiritual Goal impelled our seers to rise above all castes and creeds. While in the rest of the world, the authority and utility of religions are more or less diminishing — for the Hindus, the ideal of spirituality shines forth today just as brightly as it did three thousand years ago. The unique gathering of millions of people stand out again and again as an earnest that spirituality will survive all the blows and scoffing of this modern age.

Exotic Scenes at Kumbh Mela

Kumbha Mela is practically a grand gathering of the ascetics, sadhus, saints and Hindu pilgrims from every nook and corner of India. The saints, disseminating ‘dharma’ and watchful to new developments and tendencies, discuss various aspects of social, religious and spiritual aspects of emerging circumstances and solutions to the challenges of the changing times. Dharma Sansad, religious discourses and crowd of keen listeners in the camps of preachers are common sight. Hundreds of sadhus, their bodies smeared with ash, squatted in the open, clustered around little camp-fires, chanting holy mantras etc attract attention of the viewers. A mantra is a string of words generally embodying a prayer or an invocation. One can see few sadhus practicing austerities such as swinging in the air with their heads down, lying on beds of spikes, or sitting in difficult postures (asanas). A large number of ‘parivrajakas’ or ‘bhikshuks’, the wandering sadhus can be spotted. These Prarivrajakas never stay in one place and roam about tinkling bells and intoning incantations in a sing-song.

There were those, called the wandering sadhus (parivrajakas or bikshus) , who never stayed in one place but roamed about tinkling bells and intoning incantations in a sing-song. Some remain standing for twenty-four hours. One can spot stark naked sadhus. Observe few sadhus dressed in the most gorgeous robes. Watch grim-looking sadhus, their bodies emaciated by severe austerities. Also see some sadhus with Herculean physiques, acquired from years of strenuous exercise and good food. Some take the vow of silence and are popularly called Mauni Baba. Most of the pilgrims can be seen to go from one camp to another to listen to the different speakers discoursing fluently on various subjects.

The Legend of the Kumbh Festival

In many of the Puraanas — not to mention the Mahabharata — the famous legend of the churning of the ocean is found. In Hindu scriptures the ocean is taken as a symbol of life in both its aspects: potential and progressively evolving. Its archetype, the Primal Ocean, has been described by the ancient Hindu sages as a boundless stretch of hushed waters filling all space, and in which, aeons (Yugas) back, was latent, with the Supreme, Lord Narayana, afloat thereon in Yoga-vidra (extra-cosmic Trance) . Then the Trance broke and the One wished to project Himself into multiplicity (sokdmayala vahu sydm prajdyeyeti) . This started the cosmos— in names and forms (namarupa), vibrations and movements. For exigencies of space it is not possible to develop, far less to improvise speculatively on this mighty theme. Those who are interested may easily turn to the Upanishads, or to the more colorful Genesis of Creation as presented by the Bhagavat. Kumbh Mela or Festival’s origin as per Hindu scriptures is the post-cosmic picture of the world and the coming into being of the first terrestrial ocean, symbolizing life.

But life, once born, had to be helped to grow. So the Devtas (gods) and the Asuras (demons), to expedite evolution, conferred together and decided to churn the ocean in order to extract the various boons it held deep-hidden in its womb. The ‘Devatas’ stand for gods or the demi-urges who help Godward aspiration and ‘Asuras’ stand for demons or the Titans who sponsor those egoistic propensities which lead us ultimately to God-rebelliousness and God-denial. After the dramatis personae comes the drama. The decision taken, the momentous churning began, the great Mandar Mountain acting as the churning-rod and a colossal python, Ananta Naga, as the rope coiled round it. Anon the eddies roared and belched forth fumes, gases, fires, electricity and then deadly poison which the Lord of Compassion, Shiva, quaffed in order to rescue the agonized cosmos. Thereafter there emerged, one by one, the beneficent things or boons - the flying horse; the milch cow; the priceless jewel ; the magic moon; the sky-chariot ; the vibrant lyre; Rambha, the siren; Lakshmi, the paragon of beauty; Vishwakarma, the architect, and so on till, at long last, out-flashed Dhanwantri, the divine healer, holding in his arms the last prize : the coveted Kumbh of Nectar (Amrita) which gave immortality. As soon as he appeared a great cry of acclamation rang out and the Devas and Asuras rushed in a frenzy to seize hold of the Kumbha. When the Asuras, thanks to their superior strength, gained final possession of the Kumbha, the beaten Devas resorted to ruse: Jayanta, the alert heir-apparent of Paradise, changed himself into a rook and whisked the Kumbh away. Flying over the earth, hotly chased by the robbed, he evaded them now and then so as to be able to take a little rest en route to the Elysium and so descended from on high to perch at four places: Prayag, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. The magic touch of the Kumbha sanctified these for all time and sages, saints and pilgrims started periodically to flock to each of these tirthas to celebrate the divine event. Jayanta took twelve days to achieve his flight back to the safety of Paradise; so pilgrims held the festival every twelve years, presumably on the simple computation that what is a day to the gods is a year to mortals.

Allahabad Tour Packages

Allahabad Kumbh Mela Guided Photography Tour from Varanasi

Allahabad Kumbh Mela Guided Photography Tour from Varanasi

1 Nights / 2 Days
Destination : Varanasi

Allahabad Kumbh Mela with Varanasi Tour

Allahabad Kumbh Mela with Varanasi Tour

5 Nights / 6 Days
Destination : Delhi - Allahabad- Varanasi

Allahabad Kumbh Mela Tour

Allahabad Kumbh Mela Tour

2 Nights / 3 Days
Destination : Allahabad

Golden Triangle with Kumbh Mela Tour

Golden Triangle with Kumbh Mela Tour

8 Nights / 9 Days
Destination : Delhi - Jaipur – Agra – Allahabad

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