Kumbha Mela 2018-09-14T18:46:55+00:00

What is the Kumbha Mela?

The Kumbha Mela is inscribed on the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred or holy river. Traditionally, four fairs are widely recognized as the Kumbh 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 (Prayaga), Nashik district (Nashik and 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 and the Yamuna and the invisible Sarasvati at Allahabad; the Godavari at Nashik; and the Shipra at Ujjain.

Bathing in these rivers is belived to cleanse a person of all sins.

India’s Millennial Festival of Spiritual Unity

The Tradition of the Kumbha Mela

The Kumbha Mela has a Vedic origin. The origin of the festival can be found in the texts about Samudra Manthan. The story tells about a battle between the Devas (demigods) and the Asuras (demons) for the Amrita (the drink of immortality). During Samudra Manthan (churning of the milk ocean) the Amrita was produced and placed in a Kumbha (pot). To prevent the Asuras from seizing the Amrita, a divine chariot flew away with the pot. The Vedas narrate that the carrier is the divine doctor Dhanavantari, who stops at four places where the Kumbha Mela is celebrated. In other versions, the carrier is Garuda, Indra or Mohini, who spills the Amrita at four places.

The History of the Kumbha Mela

In the official history of Kumbha Mela there are several references to river-side festivals in ancient Indian texts, but the exact age of the Kumbha Mela is uncertain. The Chinese traveler Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang) describes a ritual organized by Emperor Shiladitya (identified with Harsha) at the confluence of two rivers, in the kingdom of Po-lo-ye-kia (identified with Prayaga). He also mentions that many hundreds took a bath at the confluence, to wash away their sins. According to some scholars, this is the earliest surviving historical account of the Kumbha Mela, which took place in present-day Allahabad in 644 CE. However, a Xuanzang reference is about an event that happened every 5 years (and not 12 years), and might have been a Buddhist celebration (since, according to Xuanzang, Harsha was a Buddhist emperor).

The Akharas believe that Adi Shankara started the Kumbha Mela at Prayag in 8th century, to facilitate the meeting of holy men from different regions.

The Kumbha Mela of Haridwar appears to be the original Kumbha Mela, since it is held according to the astrological sign “Kumbha” (Aquarius), and because there are several references to a 12-year cycle for it. The earliest extant texts that contain the name “Kumbha Mela” are Khulasat-ut-Tawarikh (1695) and Chahar Gulshan (1759). Both of these texts use the term “Kumbh Mela” to describe only Haridwar’s fair, although they mention the similar fairs held in Allahabad and Nashik district. The Khulasat-ut-Tawarikh lists the following melas: an annual mela and a Kumbh Mela every 12 years at Haridwar, a mela held at Trimbak when Jupiter enters Leo (that is, once in 12 years), and an annual mela held at Prayag in Magh. The Magh Mela of Allahabad is probably the oldest among these, dating back from the early centuries, and has been mentioned in several Puranas. However, its association with the Kumbha myth and the 12-year old cycle is relatively recent, likely dating back to the mid-19th century because of none of the ancient Hindu texts mention the Allahabad fair as a “Kumbh Mela”. Even early British records do not mention the name “Kumbh Mela” or the 12-year cycle for the Allahabad’s fair. And according to british specialists, the Prayagwal Brahmin priests of Allahabad adapted their annual Magh Mela to Kumbha tradition in order to increase its importance.

World Union for The Protection of the Holy Rivers, 2019

Kumbha Mela 2019

The Kumbha Mela is one of the greatest annual religious affairs for Hindus. Hindu mythology considers the origin of the Kumbha Mela to be the beginning of the Universe. The Magh (Kumbh) Mela is an important event held every year on the banks of Triveni Sangam (the confluence of the three great rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati) in Prayag near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh.

Cleaning the Yamuna and Ganga Rivers is a very urgent call for all sincere Hindus. All the rivers of the world must be crystal clear. That is the mission of the real guardian of Mother Earth.

Ganga Action Parivar is inviting everyone to the Kiva celebration at the Kumbha Mela 2019, together with elders from many countries.

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