Kumbh Mela 2019: In just a few days from now, the Prayagraj city, formerly Allahabad, in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh will host the world’s largest religious gathering – Ardh Kumbh. The Kumbh Mela will kick off on January 15, coinciding the Makar Sankranti when lakhs of Naga sadhus will participate in the Shahi Snaan of Akharas followed by chanting of vedic mantras at the holy confluence of rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati called Sangam. Special prayers are being organised on the occasion, exhibiting the greatness of Sanatam dharma and the importance of Kumbh in Hinduism.
The event will also see gathering of crores of people from across the world. People visit Sangam in Allahabad during the Kumbh to take a holy dip in the sacred confluence of rivers water that fills one’s heart and mind with devotion. According to religious scriptures, it is widely believed that an individual who takes the holy dip in the Sangam relieves his/her ten generations from the cycle of rebirth, and hence, achieving salvation. Also, it is said that one who provides services to pilgrims visiting Sangam during the Kumbh helps him/her to gain redemption from temptation.
Why is Kumbh Mela organised?
The word Kumbh literally means Urn. There is no clear evidence available regarding when and why people started organising Kumbh. However, there is a famous mythological story behind the Kumbh. The story goes like this:
In Hinduism, deities are seen as living beings. According to Puranas, when all deities including Indra lost their power or became weak following a curse by Maharishi Durvasa, then the demons invaded the Gods and defeated them. To regain their strength, deities visited lord Brahma and lord Shiva. They advised deities to pray to lord Vishnu who resides on the ocean bed. When lord Vishnu appeared, all the gods then narrated him the ordeal. After listening to their side of the story, lord Vishnu suggested them to churn the Kshir Sagar (ocean of milk) to get the kumbh of nectar. But to churn the Kshir Sagar, he had a condition and that was both the gods and demos should churn the Kshir Sagar and whoever will drink this amrit (nectar of immortality) will win in the war.
Since the demigods had lost their strengths, they were desperate to take up the task to churn the Kshir Sagar. For this, they reach a consensus with demons and agreed to share half of the nectar of immortality. The Mandara Mountain was used for churning the Kshir Sagar.
The first pot that had emerged was of deadly poison which lord Shiva drunk. When Amrit Kumbh (nectar urn) emerged from Kshir Sagar, Indra’s son Jayant flew into the sky with the nectar urn. On noticing this, Shukracharya, the daitya guru, ordered the demons to follow Jayant and overpower him. The demons succeeded in capturing Jayant. After this, the demons and deities engaged in a battle that lasted for 12 days.
As per the story, it was during this encounter, drops of nectar dropped at four different places on earth – Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik. And therefore, the Kumbh Mela is organised at these places.
Significantly, the twelve days of the gods are equal to 22 years of humans. Hence, the Kumbh sites are also twelve in numbers. While 4 are on earth, the remaining eight are in Devlokas.