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Kumbha Mela - Significance, Types, & History

Rivers have always been given a special place in Hindu mythology, as they are considered the bearers of life and fertility. Therefore, rivers are part of almost all major festivals in India. One of the festivals which is worth seeing in this context is the ‘Kumbh Mela’.

This fair is the largest religious event in any religion around the world. The name Kumbh Mela is made up of two words, the name of the festival literally means ‘Kumbh’ which means ‘pitcher’. The word Kumbh also refers to a Hindu sun sign, Aquarius. The word ‘fair’ means ‘gathering’.

Story of Kumbh Mela

Haridwar is considered one of the ‘Sapta Puri’ or ‘Seven Holy’ places according to Hinduism. The connection of this festival is related to the nectar that came out during the sea churning. The story of Samudra Manthan relates that many millions of years ago among the heavenly planets of this universe, due to a curse of the great sage Durvasa Muni, the gods lost all their influence and power and lost to the Asuras.

The gods then approached Lord Vishnu, the protector of the universe, and appealed to him to grant him the boon of immortality. Lord Vishnu suggested that in order to produce the nectar of immortality, the gods would have to churn the ocean of milk in association with the Asuras.

The gods promised the demons that in exchange for their help to churn the ocean, they would optionally split the nectar. The first churning produced poison which was eclipsed by Lord Shiva, due to which he is also called Neelkanth.

As soon as the nectar was seen from the churning, the gods understood the wrong intentions of the asuras. After this, at the behest of the gods, Indra’s son Jayant flew into the sky carrying the nectar-urn. According to this agreement, the share of Asuras was not given to them, as a result of which there was a war between demons and gods for 12 days and 12 nights. In this way, the Amrit fell from the fighting Amrit pitcher at four different places, including Allahabad (Prayag), Haridwar, Nashik and Ujjain.

Since then, it has been believed that these places have mystical powers, and hence the Kumbh Mela is held at these places. The 12 days of the deities are equal to 12 years of humans, hence the Kumbh Mela is held at these holy places after every 12 years. Bathing during Kumbh is believed to destroy all sins and evils and attain salvation. It is also believed to have a positive healing effect on the water of the Ganges during Kumbh.

Types of Kumbh Melas

There are five types of Kumbh Melas held in India:

Mahakumbh Mela

The great Mahakumbh Mela is celebrated after every 144 years. It is held only in Allahabad (Prayag). The Mahakumbh is attended by millions of devotees, who take a dip in the holy water. According to a legend, Lord Brahma once announced that humans would be freed from their sins by bathing or taking a dip in the holy waters of the Ganges.

Hindus also believe that bathing in the Ganges, especially during the Mahakumbh, liberates them and their ancestors from all evils and sins. The last Mahakumbh was held in 2013 and the next one will be held after 144 years.

Purna Kumbh Mela

Purna Kumbh Mela is held after every 12 years in Allahabad. A large number of devotees bathe in the holy confluence. This auspicious fair is organized on a large scale, which involves lakhs of devotees.

Ardh Kumbh Mela

‘Ardh’ in Hindi means ‘half’. Ardh Kumbh Mela is known as Ardh Kumbh because it is celebrated every 6 years. It marks the half-stage between the celebrations of the full Kumbh Mela every 12 years. Ardh Kumbh is organized only in Allahabad and Haridwar.

Kumbh Mela

Kumbh Mela is held in four different places Allahabad (Prayag), Haridwar, Nashik and Ujjain. The Kumbh Mela is organized on a large scale and lakhs of devotees attend the event and take a holy bath. The planetary positions of the Sun and Jupiter determine when and in which city the Kumbh Mela is to be celebrated.

Magh Kumbh Mela

The Magh Kumbh Mela is held every year on the banks of Triveni Sangam (Sangam of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati) in Allahabad (Prayag).

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