|Official name||Kumbh Mela, Kumbha Mela, Maha Kumbh Mela, Kumbha Melam|
|Observances||Shahi Snanam (bathing for purification from sin)|
|Date||main pilgrimage: every three years (2010/2013/2016/..); other: see chart|
|2013 date||14 Jan – 10 Mar|
|2015 date||29 Aug – 18 Sep|
|2016 date||22 April – 21 May 2016|
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Kumbh Mela (/ / or / /; Devanagari: कुम्भ मेला "kumbha mēlā", Marathi: कुंभमेळा "kumbh mela") is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred river. It is considered to be the largest peaceful gathering in the world where around 100 million people were expected to visit during the Maha Kumbh Mela in 2013 in Allahabad. It is held every third year at one of the four places by rotation: Haridwar, Allahabad (Prayaga), Nashik and Ujjain. Thus the Kumbh Mela is held at each of these four places every twelfth year. Ardha ("Half") Kumbh Mela is held at only two places, Haridwar and Allahabad, every sixth year. The rivers at these five places are: the Ganges (Ganga) at Haridwar, the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganges and the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati at Allahabad, the Godawari at Nashik, the Shipra at Ujjain and the kausiki at Chataradham
The name Kumbh Mela comes from Hindi, and in the original Sanskrit and other Indian languages it is more often known as Kumbha Mela. Kumbha means a pitcher and Mela means fair in Sanskrit. The pilgrimage is held for about one and a half months at each of these four places where it is believed in Hinduism that drops of nectar fell from the kumbha carried by gods after the sea was churned. The festival is billed as the "world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims". 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; approximately 80 million people attended on 14 February 2013.
Mauni Amavasya traditionally attracted the largest crowds at the mela, held here every 12 years. The current Kumbh Mela was held on 14 January 2013 at Allahabad. The day marked the second and the biggest Shahi Snanam (royal bath) of this event, with 13 akharas taking to the Sangam. 10 Feb 2013 was the biggest bathing day at the Maha Kumbh Mela and probably the largest human gathering on a single day. Over 30 million devotees and ascetics took holy dip on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya.
- 1 History
- 2 Places
- 3 Venues
- 4 Timing
- 5 Attendance
- 6 The ritual
- 7 Most significant days during the Kumbh Mela
- 8 Recent Kumbh Melas
- 9 Kumbh Mela in media
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
The first written evidence of the Kumbh Mela can be found in the accounts of Chinese monk Xuanzang (玄奘, alternately Hsuan Tsang) who visited India in 629–645 CE, during the reign of King Harshavardhana. However, similar observances date back many centuries, where the river festivals first started getting organised. According to medieval Hindu theology, its origin is found in one of the most popular medieval puranas, the Bhagavata Purana. The Samudra manthan episode (Churning of the ocean of milk), is mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana.
The account goes that the Devas had lost their strength by the curse of Durväsä Muni, and to regain it, they approached Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva. They directed all the demigods to Lord Vishnu (full story on kumbh mela) and after praying to Lord Vishnu, he instructed them to churn the ocean of milk Ksheera Sagara (primordial ocean of milk) to receive amrita (the nectar of immortality). This required them to make a temporary agreement with their arch enemies, the Asuras, to work together with a promise of sharing the wealth equally thereafter. However, when the Kumbha (urn) containing the amrita appeared, a fight ensued. For twelve days and twelve nights (equivalent to twelve human years) the Devas and Asuras fought in the sky for the pot of amrita. It is believed that during the battle, Lord Vishnu (incarnated as Mohini-Mürti) flew away with the Kumbha of elixir spilling drops of amrita at four places: Allahabad (Prayag), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.
Kumbh Mela takes place every thirteen years at one of four places: Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik. The Mela in its different forms alternates between Prayag, Nashik, Ujjain and Haridwar every third year.
- Kumbh Mela: Held at all four places every three years.
- Ardha Kumbh Mela: Held at Haridwar and Prayag every 6 years.
- Purna Kumbh Mela: Held only at Prayag every 12 years.
- Maha Kumbh Mela: Held only at Prayag every 144 years.
On the bank of river Ganga.
There are 14 Akhadas, of which 11 belong to the Shaiva sect (of the 11 Shaiva Akhadasa, one—Bhudada Akhada—is defunct, while 10 are active) and 3 to the Vaishnava sect. The Shaiva Akhadas take a holy dip at Kushavart in Trimbakeshwar, about 30 km from Nashik. The Vaishnav Akhadas perform rituals at Ramkund in Godavari and stay at Tapovan. The Vaishnava Akhadas have Khalsas (religious groups headed by Mahantas attached with Akhadas) attached with them. Both Shaiva and Vaishnava Sadhus used to take the holy dip in Trimbakeshwar, until 1838, when a clash between them led to bloodshed and the Peshwa ruler requested Shaiva sadhus to perform rituals at Trimbakeshwar and Vaishnavs to move downstream to Ramakunda in Nasik.
On the bank of river Shipra.
Upcoming Kumbh Mela festivals:
- The next Kumbh Mela will be held at Nashik on the bank of the river Godavari in 2015 (15 August to 13 September). The Kumbh at Ujjain is also called "Simhastha"(as Guru will be in Singh Rashi).
- Ujjain Purna Kumbh Mela 2016
Kumbh Mela is celebrated at different locations depending on the position of the planet of Bṛhaspati (Jupiter) and the sun. When Jupiter and the sun are in the zodiac sign Leo (Simha Rashi) it is held in Trimbakeshwar, Nashik; when the sun is in Aquarius (Kumbh Rashi) it is celebrated at Haridwar; when Jupiter is in Taurus (Vrishabha Rashi ) and the sun is in Capricorn (Makar Rashi) Kumbh Mela is celebrated at Prayag; and Jupiter and the sun are in Scorpio (Vrishchik Rashi) the Mela is celebrated at Ujjain. Each site's celebration dates are calculated in advance according to a special combination of zodiacal positions of Sun, Moon, and Jupiter.
According to The Imperial Gazetteer of India, an outbreak of cholera occurred at the 1892 Mela at Haridwar leading to the rapid improvement of arrangements by the authorities and to the formation of Haridwar Improvement Society. In 1903 about 400,000 people are recorded as attending the fair. During the 1954 Kumbh Mela stampede at Prayag, around 500 people were killed, and scores were injured. Ten million people gathered at Haridwar for the Kumbh on 14 April 1998.
In 2001, more than 40 million gathered on the busiest of its 55 days.
According to the Mela Administration's estimates, around 70 million people participated in the 45-day Ardha Kumbh Mela at Prayag in 2007.
The major event of the festival is ritual bathing at the banks of the river in whichever town Kumbh Mela being held:Ganga in Haridwar, Godavari in Nasik, Kshipra in Ujjain and Sangam (confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati) in Allahabad (Prayag). Nasik has registered maximum visitors to 75 million. Other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor, and religious assemblies where doctrines are debated and standardised. Kumbh Mela is the most sacred of all the pilgrimages. Thousands of holy men and women attend, and the auspiciousness of the festival is in part attributable to this. The sadhus are seen clad in saffron sheets with Vibhuti ashes dabbed on their skin as per the requirements of ancient traditions. Some, called naga sanyasis, may not wear any clothes even in severe winter.
After visiting the Kumbh Mela of 1895, Mark Twain wrote:
|“||It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites.||”|
The order of entering the water is fixed, with the Juna, the Niranjani and Mahanirvani akharas preceding.
Most significant days during the Kumbh Mela
Bhishma Ekadasi Snan
On this day, Bhishma Pithamaha, the oldest, wisest, most powerful and most righteous person belonging to the Kuru dynasty (approx. over 5000 years ago), narrated the greatness of Lord Krishna through Sri Vishnu Sahasranama to Yudhishtira, the oldest brother of Pandavas.
Recent Kumbh Melas
According to Paramahansa Yogananda in his work the Autobiography of a Yogi, it was during the Kumbh Mela in January 1894 at Prayag that his Guru Sri Yukteswar met Mahavatar Babaji for the first time.
When the Kumbh Mela was held in Nashik, India, from 27 July to 7 September 2003, 39 pilgrims (28 women and 11 men) were trampled to death and 57 were injured. Devotees had gathered on the banks of the Godavari river for the maha snaanam or holy bath. Over 30,000 pilgrims were being held back by barricades in a narrow street leading to the Ramkund, a holy spot, so the sadhus could take the first ceremonial bath. Reportedly, a sadhu threw some silver coins into the crowd and the subsequent scramble led to the stampede.
Sinhastha Mela help in Ujjain, India in the year of 2004 on the banks of River Kshipra where pilgrims took numerous religious baths.
Haridwar hosted the Purna Kumbh mela from Makar Sankranti (14 January 2010) to Shakh Purnima Snan (28 April 2010). Millions of Hindu pilgrims attended the mela. On 14 April 2010, alone approximately 10 million people bathed in the Ganges river. According to officials by mid April about 40 million people had bathed since 14 January 2010. Hundreds of foreigners joined Indian pilgrims in the festival which is thought to be the largest religious gathering in the world. To accommodate the large number of pilgrims Indian Railways ran special trains. At least 5 people died in a stampede after clashes between holy men and devotees.
The Maha Kumbh Mela was held at Allahabad (Prayag) (14 January to 10 March 2013). An estimated 30 million people visited the Maha Kumbh Mela on 10 February 2013 and an estimated 100 million were expected to visit the place during the festival spread over 55 days. On 10 February 2013, a stampede at the railway station killed 36 and injured at least 39.
Here are the details of most auspicious days (bathing dates) in year 2013 during Maha Kumbh Festival (mela).
- 14 January 2013 (Monday) - Makar Sankranti
- 27 January 2013 (Sunday) - Paush Purnima
- 6 February 2013 (Wednesday) - Ekadashi Snan
- 10 February 2013 (Sunday) - Mauni Amavasya Snan (Main Bathing Day)
- 15 February 2013 (Friday) - Vasant Panchami Snan
- 17 February 2013 (Sunday) - Rath Saptami Snan
- 21 February 2013 (Thursday) - Bhisma Ekadashi Snan
- 25 February 2013 (Monday) - Maghi Purnima Snan
- 10 March 2013 (Sunday) - Mahashivratri
- 26 August 2015 (Wednesday): Shravan Shudha- First Snan
- 29 August 2015 (Saturday): Shravan Purnima - First Shahi Snan at Ram Kunda
- 13 September 2015 (Sunday): Bhadrapad Amavasya - Second Shahi Snan/ Main bathing day
- 18 September 2015 (Friday): Bhadrapad Shukla Panchmi (Rushipanchami) - Third Shahi Snan
- 25 September 2015 (Friday): Bhadrapad Shukla Dwadashi - Vaman Dwadashi Snan
Kumbh Mela in media
Amrita Kumbher Sandhane, a 1982 Bengali feature film directed by Dilip Roy, documents the Kumbh Mela. Kumbh Mela has been theme for many a documentaries, including "Kumbh Mela: The Greatest Show on Earth" (2001) directed by Graham Day, On 24 September, The Hindu reported the great faith in god displayed in Kumbh Mela at Nasik which had more than 70 million visitors in 2003 Kumbh Mela. (2004), by Maurizio Benazzo and Nick Day, Kumbh Mela: Songs of the River (2004), by Nadeem Uddin, and Invocation, Kumbh Mela (2008).
On 18 April 2010, a popular American morning show The CBS Sunday Morning gave an extensive coverage on Haridwar's Kumbh Mela "The Largest Pilgrimage on Earth". Calling it "one of the most extraordinary displays of faith on Earth, a spectacular journey drawing tens of millions of people".
On 28 April 2010, BBC reported an audio and a video report on Kumbh Mela, titled "Kumbh Mela 'greatest show on earth'.
In 2011 the documentary on Kumbh Mela, 'Kumbh Mela: Walking with the Nagas', was produced.
"Amrit: Nectar of Immortality" (2012) is a documentary which was shot at the Kumbh Mela 2010 in Haridwar, this film is directed by Jonas Scheu and Philipp Eyer.
Allahabad: Kumbh Mela 2013, considered to be the biggest congregation of Pilgrims and devotees across the world, yet it turned out also to be a big congregation of Technology.
State government took this opportunity to showcase its achievements.
On 10 Feb 2013, Media reported that 36 people died in a stampede at the Allahabad railway station, the union and state governments have denied that organizational lapses may have contributed to the tragedy; they say the massive rush of passengers, returning from a dip in the waters of the Ganga and Yamuna, at the Maha Kumbh, the world's largest religious festival.
In March, 2013, the documentary "Inside the Mahakumbh" by the National Geographic Channel produced this documentary which also featured the California-born Baba Rampuri, the first foreigner to become a Sadhu.
In June 2013 Ukrainian Religious Studies Project Ahamot produced a documentary "Kumbh Mela 2013: living with Mahatiagi" based on their own ethnographic experience with this denomination at Sangam.
- 2013 Kumbh Mela stampede
- 1954 Kumbh Mela stampede
- List of largest gatherings in history
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- The Maha Kumbh Mela 2001 indianembassy.org
- Rashid, Omar (February 11, 2013). "Over three crore devotees take the dip at Sangam". The Hindu (Chennai, India).
- Kumbh Mela – Timeline What Is Hinduism?: Modern Adventures into a Profound Global Faith, by Editors of Hinduism Today, Hinduism Today Magazine Editors. Published by Himalayan Academy Publications, 2007. ISBN 1-934145-00-9. 242–243.
- Kumbh Mela Channel 4.
- Ramayana, Book I; Canto: XLV – The Quest for the Amrit Ramayana of Valmiki.
- in Vaikuntha Story of Maha Kumbh Mela from Srimad Bhagvatam
- The Holiest Day in History Time, 31 January 1977.
- Urn Festival Time, 1 May 1950.
- official 2013 Kumbh website
- K Shadananan Nair, "Role of water in the development of civilization of India: A review of ancient literature, traditional practices and beliefs", pp. 160–166 of The Basis of Civilization: Water Science?, ed. J. C. Rodda and Lucio Ubertini (Wallingford, Oxon: International Association of Hydrological Science, 2004. ISBN 1-901502-57-0), p.165. Here  at Google Books.
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- Huston Smith; Phil Cousineau (4 September 2012). And Live Rejoicing: Chapters from a Charmed Life: Personal Encounters With Spiritual Mavericks, Remarkable Seekers, and the World's Great Religious Leaders. New World Library. pp. 73–. ISBN 978-1-60868-071-9. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
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- 39 killed in Kumbh Mela stampede The Hindu, 28 August 2003
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- Kumbh Mela: The Greatest Show on Earth at the Internet Movie Database
- Short Cut to Nirvana at the Internet Movie Database
- Mela films
- Kumbh Mela: Songs of the River at the Internet Movie Database
- Invocation, Kumbh Mela at the Internet Movie Database
- http://amritfilm.net, Amrit Nectar of Immortality Website
- http://ahamot.org/en/kumbhmela2013-living-with-mahatiagi | Kumbh Mela 2013: Living with Mahatiagi
- Maclean, Kama (2008) Pilgrimage and Power: The Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, 1765–1954 New York: Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-533894-2
- Balonek, Michael T (2013) Adventures in India: The Maha Kumbh Mela (ILLUSTRATED CHILDREN'S BOOK). CreateSpace. http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-India-Largest-Religious-Festival/dp/1482602113/ ISBN 978-1482602111
- Narain, Badri and Kedar Narain (2010) Kumbh Mela and the Sadhus - The Quest for Immortality Varanasi: Pilgrims Publishing. ISBN 978-81-7769-805-3
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