Kumbha Mela ( River Festivals of India ) Introduction
Kumbha Mela inscribed on the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, is a mass Hindu Pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred or holy river. Traditionally, four fairs in India, held once in 12 years, are widely recognized as the Kumbha Melas; the Haridwar Kumbh Mela, the Allahabad Kumbh Mela, the Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Simhastha, and Ujjain Simhastha.
These four fairs are held periodically at one of the following places by rotation : Haridwar, Allahabad (Prayag), Nashik (Trimbak), and Ujjain. The main festival site is located on the banks of a river: the Ganges (Ganga) at Haridwar; the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganges, Yamuna and the invisible Sarasvati at Allahabad; the Godavari at Nashik; and the Shipra at Ujjain. Bathing in these rivers is believed in Hinduism to cleanse a person of all sins.
The exact date of Kumbha is determined as per Vikram Samvat calendar and the principles of Jyotisha of the Hindus.The priests at other places have also claimed their local River Festivals to be Kumbh Melas. For example, the Mahamaham festival at Kumbakonam, held once in 12 years, is also portrayed as a Kumbh Mela.
The exact age of the Kumbha Melas is uncertain. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu, the Hindu God of preservation dropped drops of Amrita (Nectar) at four places, while transporting it in a Kumbha (Pot). These four places are identified as the present-day sites of the Kumbh Mela
These festivals are amongst the highest congregation of religious pilgrims on the planet. There is no precise method of ascertaining the number of pilgrims, and the estimates of the number of pilgrims bathing on the most auspicious day may vary. An estimated 120 million people visited Maha Kumbh Mela in 2013 in Allahabad.
The Allahabad Kumbh Mela is a festival held every 12 years at Prayag (Allahabad) in India. The exact date of Kumbh, as already mentioned, is determined according to Hindu astrology. The Mela is held when Jupiter is in Taurus and the Sun and the Moon are in Capricorn. The fair involves ritual bathing at Triveni Sangam, the confluence of three rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati.
The last Allahabad Kumbh Mela took place in 2013; the next one is scheduled in 2025.The Mela is one of the four fairs (River Festivals) held in India, traditionally recognized as Kumbh Melas.This Kumbh is considered to be the most significant of all, as it marks the direction of Wisdom and Light. This is the place of Hindus where the Sun, symbolizing wisdom rises. Creation of the universe is supposed to have originated here and it is supposed to be the center of the earth, as per ancient Hindu beliefs.
Kumbha History :
According to Hindu mythology, its origin is found in one of the most popular Puranas, the Bhagavata Purana. The Samudra Manthan (Churning of the ocean of milk) of the Hindu gods and demons, is mentioned in the Hindu mythologies Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, the Mahabharata, and the great epic Ramayana.
Finally after this entire churning process, God Dhanwantari appeared with a Kumbha (Pot) of nectar in his palms. However, when the Kumbha appeared, a fight ensued between the gods and the demons. To prevent the elixir of immortality from the demons, the gods ran away with the Kumbha to hide it away and they were chased by the demons. For twelve days and twelve nights the Devas (gods) and Asuras (demons) fought in the sky for the pot of Nectar.
It is believed that during the battle, the drops of Nectar fell down from the Kumbha at four places; Allahabad (Prayag), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.
Because 12 days of gods are believed to be equal to 12 years for humans in Hinduism, the Kumbh Mela is celebrated once every 12 years in each of the four places; banks of river Godavari in Nasik, river Shipra in Ujjain, river Ganges at Haridwar, and at the confluence of Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati in Allahabad, where the drops are believed to have fallen.Several stampedes have occurred at the Allahabad Kumbha Mela in 1840, 1906, 1954, 1986 and 2013. The deadliest of these was the 1954 stampede, which left 800 people dead.