ABOUT HARIDWAR KUMBH MELA
There is no better occasion to visit India than during Kumbh Mela which is not only the greatest Indian Festival but is also the largest gathering of people for the spiritual benefit and attracts millions of devotees from all over the world who assemble at Haridwar, once of the most sacred places for Hindus which literally means Gateway to God situated in foothills of Himalayas. In Rishikesh (the nearby town), Ganges emerges from mighty Himalayas and flows through Gangetic plains for rest of its journey. The place is also famous in the world for Beatles Ashram where the world-famous rock bank group stayed to learn Transcendental Meditation.
The festival is once-in-a-lifetime experience for every visitor who is curious about Hindu religion and philosophy. The whole atmosphere during Kumbh Mela is bursting with sounding bells, chanting of Vedic hymns and mantras, procession of Naga Sadhus and other Akhaaras on camels and elephants in their gold and silver chariots being pulled by devotees, as they display their strength and skills is a pure enchantment for the soul.
Kumbh has different significance for different people. It depends on how one wants to perceive it. For those, looking for spirituality, it is a place which is divine with all spiritual gurus around you. For the travellers, it is an experience to come across the largest gathering of like-minded people not only from India but around the world. For photographers, it offers an opportunity to capture images of various moods, attires and faith of people which they cannot find anywhere else. For researchers, it is a project on how an urban settlement can be created in such a short time with existence of urban-religious interface.
A dip in Ganges at Haridwar at the time of Kumbh Mela is believed to attain moksha from vicious cycle of birth and rebirth.
When Kumbh Mela is Held
Kumbh Mela comes at the time when Sun, Jupiter and Moon are at specific position on the Hindu Sidereal zodiac.
As Jupiter takes about 11 years, 10 months and 14 days to complete its revolution around the sun, it’s obvious that it comes back to any specific position on its orbit on completion of nearly 12 years. Thus all these planetary configurations repeat every 12th year and, thus, Kumbh Mela also comes after the same interval. At Haridwar and Allahabad, an Ardha (Half) Kumbh Mela is held every sixth year.
The origin of the Kumbh dates back to the time when amrita kalasha (pot of nectar of immortality) was recovered from Samudramanthan (during the churning of the primordial sea), after which a brutal war between devatas (Gods) and asuras (Demons) ensued. To prevent the amrita kalasha being taken into posesion by asuras, who were more powerful than the devatas, its safety was entrusted to the devatas Brahaspati (Jupiter), Surya (Sun), Chandra (Moon), and Shani (Saturn).
The four devatas ran away with the amrita kalasha to hide it from the asuras. Learning the conspiracy of the devatas, the asuras turned ferocious and chased devatas running with amrita kalasha. The chase lasted 12 years, during which the devatas and asuras went round the earth. During this chase, the devatas hid amrita kalasha at the cities Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Nasik. According to other Pauranic legends, the fight took place between devatas and asuras, resulting in the amrita kalasha being knocked, out of which amrita (Nectar) fell down at the 4 places. To commemorate this holy event of the amrita kalasha being put at 4 places, Kumbh is celebrated every 12 years in Haridwar, Allahabad ( Prayag ), Ujjain and Nashik.
The Sadhus at the Kumbh Mela
The sadhus and other holy men are an integral part of the Kumbh Mela. Pilgrims who attend the Kumbh Mela come to see and listen to these holy MEN, in order to gain spiritual enlightenment.
There are various types of sadhus:
Nagas — Naked sadhus who smear their bodies with ash and have long matted hair.Constant exposure to the weather makes them resistant to temperature extremes. Their eyes are bloodshot from constantly smoking charas (marijuana), which they believe aids enlightenment.
Urdhwavahurs — who have emaciated bodies from rigid spiritual practices.
Parivajakas — who have taken a vow of silence.
Shirshasinse — who remain standing, sleep with their heads resting on a vertical pole, and meditate standing on their heads.
Kalpvasis — who remain by the river banks and devote their time to meditating, performing rituals, and bathing numerous times a day.
Activities During Mela
Take a Dip Make a Wish
If you go by the Hindu mythologies, then this is the only time and place in the world where you can unburden your sins and achieve ‘Nirvana’ from the vicious cycle of birth and re birth. Take dips in the holy water of Ganges that is said to wash away all the sins of a person. Light a Diya and make a wish, they do come true!
Sojourn on the Ashrams near the Banks
To live among the Sadhus, who have dedicated their entire lives in meditation and fulfilling spiritual deeds is indeed a unique experience of life. In Haridwar there are many such Ashrams where tourists can stay to enjoy the life of a saint besides indulging into various Yoga and Meditation regimes.
Surrender to Peaceful Activities
Taking dip in a day, attending yoga classes, listening to the divine lectures and participating in the cultural programmes are just a few of the activities that one can enjoy during the famous Kumbh Mela.