The Kumbh is a gathering like no other. One of the greatest gathering of mankind, the Kumbh is an opportunity for visitors to get a glimpse into spiritual liberation. This journey not only takes travellers to the most sacred festival of the Hindus, but also give them a taste of the varied flavours of the country across some of the hubs of spirituality in India.
The Mela, as it is called, is held every three years. The locations change hands between four holy places in India. From Haridwar that has the river Ganga, to Prayag with the Triveni sangam(confluence) of Yamuna, Ganga and Saraswati, and from Ujjain with its holy river of Kshipra, to Nasik and its river Godavari. This gathering then returns to each of these locations after a span of 12 years.
The literal translation of ‘Kumbh’ is nectar. Legend has it that mela goes back to a time when the gods used to reside on earth, and were weakened by a sage’s curse, causing the demons to cause havoc in the world. That is when Lord Brahma, also known as the creator god in Hinduism, advised them to churn out the nectar of immortality with the help of the demons. When the demons to know of the plan, they chased the gods for 12 days to get hold of the nectar. During the chase, some of the nectar fell at the four locations, where the mela is now held.
It is believed that the Kumbh Mela is held on the dates when the waters of these sacred rivers turn into nectar, and those who bathe in these sacred waters during the Kumbh are eternally blessed by the divine, as all their sins are washed away.
The spectacle of spirituality begins at 3 in the morning, when the pilgrims start lining up to bathe. As the sun comes up, different groups of ‘sadhus’ move in procession towards the river. The procession is usually led by the Nagas (the sadhus who do not wear any clothes), while every other group also proceeds with enthusiasm and immense fanfare. The grandeur attracts everyone in its presence to a magical aura.
After bathing, the pilgrims drape themselves in fresh clothes and go walking around to gather knowledge and attend different discourses from varied sadhus. Many holy men from different Hindu sects attend the event, including the famed Nagas, Kalpwasis (who bathe thrice a day) and Urdhawavahurs (who out their body through many austerities).
Watch the sky redden and witness a wave of pilgrims advancing towards towards the sangam. And when night falls, witness thousands of campfires burning along the riverbanks, amidst brightly decorated pandals (tents) while losing yourself in the rhythmic chants and lectures on the realms of spiritual and philosophical.
The important dates for Kumbh 2019 are as follows :