What Is Kumbh Mela.

BY Mr Shiv Sagar June 11,2020
What Is Kumbh Mela.

What Is Kumbh Mela. 

Other Names: Magh Mela, Kumbh Mela Festival

What is Kumbh Mela – Kumbh Mela is one of the oldest known gatherings recorded in history. It is also known as the Magh Mela as it is held in the month of Magh in the Hindu calendar ( February – March in the Gregorian calendar). It is held in modern day Allahabad, which was known as Prayagraj, named after the confluence of three rivers Prayag.

The centre of this Mela is the ‘Triveni Sangam’, it is the sacred confluence of 3 rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. All three rivers have a mention in mythology, with Ganga being the river that flows from the dreadlocks of Shiva and is considered the holiest of the rivers.

Yamuna, is considered to be sister of Yamraj so is also known as Yami. And Saraswati is the third in the confluence it was known to flow from the Himalayas into the Arabian sea, but is believed to have dried up due to natural calamity. It is said to be the water body which the Indus Valley civilization was based on.

''Until recently it was believed to be purely mythical but new evidence is now showing that it may be flowing underground.''

American sat pictures in recent times have shown that there exists a underground water body in the area of Jaisalmer , the area which the saraswati river flowed. As per ISRO the river passed through, Haryana, Punjab, Rajastan and Gujarat. The mapped course of the river shows that it was 4 – 10 km wide and probably disappeared due to tectonic activity and geological changes.

The Kumbh Mela resonates with devotion and Bhakti in the vibration of the place. The Pandals bursts with Hymns, the beautiful sounds of various instruments and the chanting of mantras all of which contribute to the magic of The Kumbh Mela.

This makes a picturesque vision of the confluence just by imagining the beauty of the place. The ambience of the place would make any one’s heart fill with devotion and joy. The spirituality of the place is enhanced by the presence of the Rishis in search of the ultimate understanding of god. In Hinduism it is believed that at the Kumbh Mela you may even encounter god in disguise.

''Prayag is mentioned in a few ancient scriptures as the centre of the earth. And Hindus believe that Lord Brahma himself did a Yagna here to create the universe.''

The Magh Mela is mentioned in the Puranas.  In Mahabharata, Maharishi Markandeya told Yudhistir that as per “Matsya Purana” this place is protected by the gods themselves so meditation and offerings at the Triveni Sangam is held in the highest regard. A person can achieve salvation through seva, so many people choose to provide services to the visiting pilgrims.

“ If one bathes and sips water where the Ganga, Yamuna, and Sarasvati meet, he enjoys liberation, and of this there is no doubt”.

-Padma Purana, Uttara Khanda 23.14

“Those who bathe in the bright waters of the Ganga where they meet the dark waters of the Yamuna during the month of Magh will not be reborn, even in thousands of years”.

– Matsya Purana 107.7

The earliest version of the the text is between 200CE- 500CE. The Prayaga Mahatmya is another text, which covers chapters 103-112 of the Matsya Purana, with verses on the Kumbh Mela. The Rig veda speaks of the benefits of bathing at the sangam in the period of the mela, which rids the person of negative energies and brings in positivity into their soul. Prayer offerings are also expressed in Atharva Veda and Yajur Veda.Atharva Veda (IV.34.7; XIX.53.3), three from the Rig Veda (I.8.9, X.89.7, XII.3.23) and one from the Yajur Veda (Madhyandina, 19.87).

Of the Atharva Veda verses—

‘चतुर: कुम्भांश्चतुर्धा ददामि’’- a hymn in glorification of the Vishtari sacrifice and

‘पूर्ण: कुम्भोSधिकाल आहितस्तं’—’godly time’.

प्रयागः सर्वतीर्थेभ्यः प्रभवत्यधिकं विभो ॥
श्रवणात् तस्य तीर्थस्य नामसंकीर्तनादपि ।
मृत्तिकालम्भनाद्वापि नरः पापात् प्रमुच्यते ॥ Mahabharat 3.83.75

English translation: O King! Prayag is the superior most among all pilgrimage places. If its greatness is heard, its Name is chanted or if its soil is smeared on the body, man will be liberated from all sins. Kumbh Mela or the Magh Mela is mentioned in the Puranas. But in modern day history it is recorded since the 17th century. The Kumbh is held for almost 55 days and is organised over acres around the triveni sangam area, converting this area into a transient city of the world.

Kumbh Mela History

According to Hindu legend in ancient Hindu texts there is a mention of Samudra Manthan and that the oceans were churned for a pot ( Kumbh) of Amrit, ( a nectar that would gives immortality). This is mentioned in the Puranas from the 3rd to the 10th century CE.

Samudra manthan was the battle between the Devas and the Asuras for the Amrit, which had to be churned from the bottom of the ocean. The devas and asuras collaborated on this, and the Amrit was collected in a pot(Kumbha). But the impending dangers of Asuras being immortal were that they were known from their misuse of power.

Thus, the devas wanted to prevent them from consuming the Amrit, so they approached Vishnu to help them. So when the divine Physician Dhanavantari appeared with the pot, Vishnu appeared as a beautiful woman Mohini which distracted the Asuras as she distributed it among the devas.

It was at this time when the Mohini tried to avoid the Asuras drops of Amrit fell on earth at the locations of the existing Kumbh mela. The four places being the Prayag, Haridwar, Trimbak and Ujjain. This pursuit lasted for 12 divine days which is 12 human years and so the Maha Kumbh is celebrated every 12 years.

The planetary positions for the Kumbh Mela :

The Mela is held during the astrological sign ‘Kumbh’(Aquarius) hence the name.The dates of the Maha Kumbha are determined in accordance with such scientific methods which majorly include the planetary positions.

When the planet Jupiter enters the astrological sign Taurus, it coincides with the time when Capricorn houses the Sun and the moon . Jupiter completes one revolution around the sun in approximately 12 yrs. 11yrs 10 mths precisely . Hence the Purna Kumbh is celebrated every 12 years . The position of Jupiter Moon and the sun determine the time and date of the Kumbh.

The belief being that the planetary positions affect the location of the mela and the water around it.Haridwar when the Sun enters the Aries and the Jupiter enters the Aquarius.Prayag the entrance of Jupiter in Aries circle and Sun & Moon in Capricorn, on the day of AmavasyaNashik Jupiter enters in Leo and also when Jupiter, Sun and the Moon enter in Cancer on Amavasya day

Ujjain :  

The Sun is in the zodiac sign Aries and Jupiter is in the Leo. “Leo” means Simha or the Lion. It is also referred to as ‘Simhasta Kumbh’.Jupiter enters the Libra and the Sun and the Moon stay together on Kartik Amavasya (8th month of the year according to Hindu calendar- around november) the holy Moksha Dayak.

The Kumbh starts at Haridwar followed by Prayag every 3 yrs and held in Nashik and Ujjain in the same intervals.but Maha kumbh can be celebrated within a year in Nashik and Ujjain.

The Grandeur :

The grand scale of the kumbh stands as a testimony of the time elapsed from its conception.Currently  the maha Kumbh is held every 144 years after 12 Purna Kumbh melas, which  is held every 12 yrs and the ardha kumbh is held every 6 yrs. The previous Kumbh was held in 2017 in Allahabad. Ardha Kumbh is held only in Haridwar and Allahabad.

Allahabad being the most important with the confluence of 3 rivers Ganga Jamuna and Saraswati, it is called the Triveni sangam . The confluence is called Prayag and is supposed to be very sacred. The city of Allahabad was commissioned by  Mughal King Akbar and his historians have recorded a gathering of Hindus at the Prayag the triveni sangam the confluence and has been renamed in 2018 as Prayagraj.

Kumbh mela is mentioned in historic texts of Hsuan Tsang. He has written of the grandiose of the Mela in his travelogue. This evidence points at King Harshavardana (c590- 647 Ad) who was a benevolent King and his great charities at the Triveni Sangam.

Where, he was known to donate to sanyasis and scholars. It is said that the King would hold a large assembly and distribute his possessions. Harshavardana was a Buddhist king but actively participated in this festival. This is the same period that the Kumbh Mela got larger and more popular.

Haridwar:

It is said to the oldest place of the Kumbh mela. It is located at the banks of the Holy river ganga. Haridwar Mela as it was known over centuries, it was a place where Sadhu akharas would meet, and was a centre point for trade. Merchants often came to sell steeds and wares. Even Sikhs were recorded to be a part of the mela. This mela was later adopted in 3 other locations with the same philosophy.

Nashik :

The location of the Kumbh is at Trimbak close to Nashik. The mela here is held on the banks of the river Godavari. The two akharas, Sanyasis and Bairagis have 2 seperate places to bathe here. Sanyasis  bathe at Trimbak and considered it to be the true location due the the Trimbakeshwar Jyotirling. The Vaishnavites go to Panchvati Ramkund, where Rama and Sita spend many years of their exile. The bairagis bathing location to Ramkund in Nashik.

Ujjain:

This is the newest of all the locations and was started in the 18th century (it is an ancient city and the reference is too new) by a Maratha ruler called Ranoji Shinde, he invited Ascetics from Nasik to Ujjain’s festival. The festival is celebrated on the banks of the river Shipra. The mela  is called ‘Simhasth’ deriving its name from Simha or lion as it is held when Jupiter is in Leo, in Hindu astrology.

Both of which have adopted the Kumbh mela story from Haridwar. The Mahakaaleshwar temple Jyotirling is at the centre of this festival, in Ujjain.

Prayagraj:

There is a mention of this fair in the Mughal history as well in Khulasat-ut-Tawarikh (c1695- 1699)  and reference to Kumbh Mela is at Haridwar and not Allahabad. It mentions an annual mela at Allahabad.

The Kumbh mela at the Triveni Sangam is different from the other Kumbhs, one of which is the Kalpvas or the period of abstinence, in which the person takes a dip in the prayag and consumes food only a single time in a day which can be practiced for a minimum of a day upto a month of the kumbh . This is said to be a path to Moksh.

Organisation:

2013 :

The Kumbh management won the gold award at the Common Wealth Association for Public Administration and Management 2014 International Innovation Award. It was estimated that 100 million people visited the Kumbh.
 

Allahabad Kumbh Mela 2019

The Kumbh mela is being held in Allahabad/Prayagraj. The organisation of such a mega event by the government has never been attempted at such a mega scale before. An area of 25 kms were cordoned off from vehicular traffic. And all 4 of the stations of Allahabad had a shuttle service to the Kumbh location.

The Cungi chauraha which is the main junction for roads coming in from Lucknow and Kanpur, is decorated with painting by various artists under the bridges on the pillars. Also another part of the city Arial has 300 murals put up which enhances the beauty of the city.

The Mela is spread over 14 kms, and is divided into 22 sectors of them. Each of the entries were marked with decorative gates and unique names for easy identification. The entry point was called Rudraksh Gate. Another gate on the other side was the Kacchap gate.

The main auspicious dates for the bath:

1.  Markar Sankranti (first Shani snan) – 14/15 January 2019
2. Paush Purnima – 21st January
3. Mauni Amavasya (main bath, 2nd Shani snan) – 4th February, 2019
4. Basant Panchami (3rd Shani snan) – 10th February, 2019
5. Maghi Poornima – 19th February, 2019
6. Maha Shivratri – 4th March 2019

Modernisation :

The Kumbh is the largest religious gathering in the world, on certain days the crowd is estimated to be 40 to 50 million.This requires a lot of crowd management to avoid mishaps and maintain hygine. There is also a lost and found department and continuous announcements of reminders of ones belongings and companions. There are several Dwars or gates to mark the entry to each sector.

The 1st being the entry point is called the Rudraksh Dwar,  which marks the entry point of the Kumbh, the other being the Kachwap dwar ( turtle door), both leading to the 1st sector. The Nandi dwar marks the entry into the 4th sector where all the Akharas and ashrams have been given accommodation. The dwar is decorated with the depiction of the Samudra Manthan. The incredible satsangs and free food is a part of the akharas.

The mela has a separate section for VIPs with beautiful tents and private toilets, this sector is called the Tent city. The other sectors had the akharas and ashrams which also is very well organised. For medical emergencies there are ambulances on standby and even a bank on the banks of the river. There are boat services to reach the Prayag and take a dip there, the devotees have to wear a life jacket. This kind of security has never seen before at the Kumbh.

''The current BJP government in Uttar Pradesh led C.M YogiAdityanath, had set aside 2500 crores for the current Kumbh. The planning of this mega event started more than 6 months from commencement of the Kumbh 2019.''

The government, has included the youth volenteers the programme is focussed on mobilising and engaging the youth for the Kumbh. The Prayagraj Mela Pradhikaran, govt of Uttar Pradesh put in place the Volunteer Engagement Programme. This programme is called ‘The Kumbh Sevamitra’.

One of the 1st  institutes  was the Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad where around 150 students attended the event. Other institutes included MNNIT Allahabad, IIT Allahabad and Allahabad University.Ashish Kumar Goel, Divisional Commissioner of Allahabad, who was also the chief guest for the event, said, “Volunteering at Kumbh Mela 2019 is a chance of a lifetime. The enrollment programme for Kumbh Sevamitra is aimed at drawing more youth to volunteer at the Kumbh next year. Without their ‘we can do it’ attitude, it would be difficult to conduct a successful event of this magnitude.”

The volunteers enrolled in the Kumbh Sevamitra programme were  divided into different departments in different roles :

1.Prayagraj Mela Pradhikaran for Boat Management,

2.Tent Services and Ghat Management roles;

3.Kumbh Mela Police Department for Traffic & Movement Management,

4.Crowd Control and Lost & Found Services; Health Department for Health Services;

5.Tourism Department for Tourist Guides and Tourist Services Management and 

6. Media and information Department for Press and Media Services Management.

AKHARAS:

It is a place of practice with facilities for boarding, lodging and training, both in the context of martial arts or sampradaya monastery for religious renunciates in Guru-Shishya tradition.Akharas are catogorised into  3 sampradaya based on their traditional system.There are 14 Akharas in India in which 13 are registered.

These 13 Akharas are further divided as :

  • Nirvani,
  • Digambar and
  • Nirmal Sampradaya.

These akharas also known as Sanyasi, Vairagi and Udasin Sampradaya.

Nirvani: Followers of Lord Shiva also known as Sanyasi. It has the largest number of akharasas well as Sadhus, Saints and Nagas.

Digambar follower of Lord Vishnu also known as Vairagi

Nirmal: Also known as Udasin, followers of Multiple Gods.

Akharas and their Headquarters

Sampradaya

Name of Akhara’s

Headquarters

Nirvani

1. Shri Panchayati Akhara Maharanirvani

Allahabad

2. Shri Panch Atal Akhara

Varanasi

3. Shri Panchayati Akhara Niranjani

    Allahabad

4. Topinidhi Shri Anand Akhara Panchayati

Nashik

5. Shi Panchdashnam Juna Akhara

Varanasi

6. Shri Panchdashnam Ahavan Akhara

Varanasi

7. Shri PanchdashnamPanchagni Akhara

Junagadh

Vairagi Vaishnav Akharas

8. Shri Digambarani Akhara

Sabarkhantha

9. Shri Nirvani AkharaAyodhya,

Ayodhya, Faizabad

10. Shri Nirmohi Akhara

Mathur

Udasin Sampradaya

11. Shri Panchayati Baba Udasin

Allahabad  

12. Shri Panchayati Akhara Naya Udasin

Haridwar

13. Shri Nirmal Panchayati Akhara   

Haridwar

The Kinnar Akhara :

This is the 1st time ever that the eunuchs /kinnars have been given an akhara in the Kumbh. It is a landmark change in the religious prespective.Although it is not among the 13 recognised akharas (Akhil Bharatiya Akharda Parishad ) , this Kinnar Akhara of transgender ‘saints’ is supported and popular in the transgender community. Infact the Kinnar Akhara is asking for more facilities, with the intention of changing how people look at Kinnars as only dancers and musicians.

The mention of Kinnars in the religious text revered beings have been brought to the foreground and has given a new direction to rally for the religious rights, which main stream society has denied them .It is said that Lord Rama on his return to Ayodhya blessed them due to their devotion to him. He promised them power in Kaliyug.

''It is for the 1st time any religion has given them an official space, due to which transgenders across the world have taken notice and it has become a rallying point.''

The kinnar Akhara was started in 2015 in the Simhasta Kumbh in Ujjain. Kamala Bua was elected as the head of the Akhara by 22 senior transgenders. The senior citizens above 65 who are office , have been categorised under Mandaleshwar, Peetahdishwar and Mahants.

The Kinnar Akhara Peshwai :

They were a colourful procession and became the center of attraction, as it was composed of only Kinnars. Though not recoginsed by the Akharas the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad allowed for the procession to take place.Mahamandekeshwar Acharya Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, led the procession and took the royal bath at the Sangam at the Juna Akhara.

She further said the Kinnar Akhada is open to the transgender community from all walks of life. “The recent ruling of the Supreme Court removing section 377 now gives us protection and more rights in the society. Many members of the transgender community, who were living in fear or were shy, now have the courage to speak up for themselves and approach us,” Tripathi added

“Although our strength has been increasing, we do not believe in number games. Money, status and class are no bar for a transgender person to join the Kinnar Akhada. However, we carry out background verification of the person joining the Akhada to stay away from any controversy,” Tripathi said.

The Kumbh is the every changing  ever accepting face of Hinduism. Hinduism has always adapted and changed with time and seeing changes like this happen just goes to show how accepting and modern Hinduism has been. CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT.

Interesting Babas at the Kumbh mela 2019

There is an ashram in the 16th sector where along with prayers being offered there  are also songs of patriotism and tributes to Martyrs are also given.

 


 


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