Kumbh Mela Information Guide
Kumbh Mela is the largest gathering of people for a religious purpose in the world. Millions of people gather on different places for this auspicious occasion. Kumbha is a Sanskrit word for Pitcher, sometimes referred to as the Kalasha, it is also a zodiac sign in Indian astrology for Aquarius, the sign under which the festival is celebrated, while Mela means ‘a gathering’ or ‘a meet’, or simply a fair.
Different Forms of Kumbh
The literal meaning of Kumbh is "pitcher". Kumbh is the human body, it is the abdomen, and the sea, earth, sun and Vishnu are synonyms of Kumbh. The pitcher, sea, river, ponds and the well are symbols of Kumbh as the water from these places is covered from all sides. The sky has the cover of the wind, the sun covers the entire universe with its light, and the human body is covered with cells and tissues. That is why it is Kumbh. Desire, that is longing, is also Kumbh. God Vishnu is also Kumbh as He pervades the entire creation, and the creation pervades in Him.
Elemental Meaning of Kumbh
Kumbh is the confluence of all our cultures. It is the symbol of spiritual awakening. It is the eternal flow of humanity. It is the surge of rivers, forests and the ancient wisdom of the sages. It is the flow of life itself. It is the symbol of the confluence of nature and humanity. Kumbh is the source of all energy. Kumbh makes humankind realize this world and the other, sins and blessings, wisdom and ignorance, darkness and light. Holy rivers are the symbols of the lyrical flow of humanity. Rivers are indicators of the flow of water of life in the human body itself. In the human body that is an embodiment of home, nothing is possible without the five elements. The elements – fire, wind, water, earth and sky – symbolize the human body. The great sage-poet Sant Kabir has explained this sublime thought in his typical manner.
When and Where Kumbh Mela is Celebrated?
Kumbh Mela in Hinduism is celebrated four times every 12 years, the site of the observance rotating between four pilgrimage places on four sacred rivers: at Haridwar on the Ganges River, at Ujjain on the Shipra, at Nasik on the Godavari, and at Prayag (Allahabad) at the confluence of the Ganges, Jamuna (popularly known as Yamuna), and the mythical River Sarasvati.
Famous ancient traveller, Hiuen Tsiang of China, was the first to mention Kumbha Mela in his diary. His diary mentions the celbration of 75 days of hindu month of Magha (January-February), which witnessed half a million devotee including sadhus, common man, rich & famous & kings.
For each site Kumbh Mela comes in every 12 years. Each site’s celebration is based on particular zodiacal positions of the Sun, the Moon, and Jupiter, the holiest time occurring at the exact moment these zodiacal conditions are fulfilled. Bathing at this moment is believed to generate the greatest religious merit, but the Kumbh time is regarded as being so holy that other bathing days are designated weeks or even months before and after this climactic time.
Naga Sadhus are the most important features of Kumbh Mela are furious and exotic, covered in ash, matted hairs and are known as preserver of faith. Naga Akhadas (where naga sadhu gathers for this occasion) are the most important historical figures of Kumbha Mela. Naga sadhus are people who made their living as mercenary soldier and traders. Apart from the akhadas, attendees at the Kumbh Mela come from all sections of Hindu religious life, ranging from sadhus (holy men), who remain naked year-round or practice the most severe physical discipline, to hermits, who leave their isolation only for these pilgrimages, and even to silk-clad teachers using the latest technology.