India is a land of festivals. From Kashmir to Kanya Kumari, our country has innumerable festivals to integrate the people by and large. Needless to say that down the ages, festivals have been a binding force in society. Festivals have inspired not only togetherness but also an expression of Indian art, literature, music, architecture, sculpture and culture over the centuries. Hence centres of pilgrimage were set up all over the country to amalgamate religious sentiments with travel as its integral part. One such pilgrimage is Kumbh that literally means a pitcher. The reference is to the pot which emerged after the gods and demons churned the milky ocean, filled with the nectar of immortality.
Kumbh Mela Symbolism
The symbolism inherent when we speak of Kumbh Mela far transcends the literal translation. A Kumbh Mela indicates the beginning of an auspicious and holy event. A full-Kumbh also signifies knowledge, happiness and bliss.
Millions of people from around the world congregate at the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna and a mythical third river called Saraswati in Allahabad aka Prayag in northern India to bath in the icy waters of the holy rivers, said to be one of the largest gatherings on earth.
The myths and tales associated with the Kumbh have come down to us from generation to generation along with the knowledge of the special planetary associations under which they are held. In Hindu culture, the Sun and the moon are representative of human rational intellect and mind, and Jupiter – known as Guru in Sanskrit – is the spiritual master. Thus, as the arrangement of these three planetary bodies decide when Kumbh Mela occurs, it is representative of the philosophy that when the human intellect and mind are aligned with the Guru, the result is the realization of immortality.
Kumbh Mela Significance
Kumbh, Poorna Kumbh or Maha Kumbh are the titles given to the fairs held every twelve years at Haridwar (Uttaranchal), Prayag (Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh) and Nashik (Maharashtra).
The fairs at Nashik and Ujjain are called Simhastha Kumbh as Jupiter is located in the constellation Simha (Leo). The Kumbh at Prayag is Vrishastha (Jupiter in Taurus) and the fair at Haridwar is Kumbhastha (Jupiter in Aquarius).
Besides the Kumbh, there are halfway congregations at these cities. These are called the Ardhakumbh. Unlike the Kumbh, during the Ardhakumbh, the sadhus move to Ujjain with their Akharas.
The Simhastha Kumbh at Nashik and Ujjain generally fall at a year's interval. At both these places, the sadhus and the commoners get together, making these fairs a meeting ground of those who have renounced the world. But the Ardhakumbh at Haridwar is the fair of the grihasthas (householders) only. It is held every six years.
The story goes that in the seventh-century king Harshavardhana, then ruling India, religiously used to give up all his possessions every six years at Prayag. This apparently gave an impetus to the popularity of the Ardhakumbh.
So, it is due to the faith of the people and the thoughtfulness of our seers that this holy occasion is named Kumbh Mela.
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