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Home > Fairs or Melas > Kumbha Mela
Kumbha Mela
It is celebrated in a twelve year cycle at the following four locations of India. They are :

Kumbha Mela
  • Prayag (near the city of Allahabad, in the state of Uttar Pradesh) at the confluence of three rivers Ganga (Ganges), Yamuna and Saraswati.


  • Haridwar (in the state of Uttar Pradesh) where the river Ganga enters the plains from Himalayas


  • Ujjain (in Madhya Pradesh), on the banks of Ksipra river


  • Nasik (in Maharashtra) on the banks of Godavari river.


  • Kumbha (Kumbha means pot) Mela is a sacred Hindu pilgrimage. The pilgrimage occurs four times every twelve years, once at each of the four locations. Each twelve-year cycle includes the Maha (great) Kumbha Mela at Prayag, attended by millions of people, making it the largest pilgrimage gathering around the world.

    The observance of Kumbha Mela is based upon the story of amritamanthana. The legend current about Kumbha Mela is that the earth was hallowed in four places by contact with Amrit, the nectar of Immortality.

    The gods were cursed by a sage and became emaciated and wished to regain their old vigour by feasting on Amrita or the cream of the milk ocean. The weak gods could not churn the ocean by themselves and enlisted the support of the Asuras, their inveterate enemies, by promis-ing to them a portion of the ambrosia. As the churning progressed, the ocean began to yield its treasures one by one, and lastly appeared the sage Dhanwantari with the coveted Kumbha or jar of nectar. The Asuras were physically stronger and seized the Kumbha, but one of the gods assumed the form of a rook and whisked away the jar, with the Asuras in hot pursuit. The bird on its way to paradise, is said to have taken rest at Nasik, Ujjain, Prayag and Hardwar.

    The rook took twelve days to reach paradise from the milk ocean, and as each divine day is reckoned equivalent to an earth year, the Kumbha Mela is celebrated once in twelve years at each of these four places. According to another version of the legend, as the gods and the Asuras struggled for the possession of Kumbha, some nectar, spilt from the jar, fell at the four places mentioned above. The Mela is not held at all the four places on the same date but in turn and hence we have a Kumbha Mela every three years or so. Prayag at the confluence of the rivers Ganges and Yamuna is particularly holy, and the river-bed here is extensive and can easily hold millions of pilgrims.

    As described in Mahabharata, the five Pandava brothers also visited the sangam. And, 500 years ago Sri Chaitanya stayed for 10 days at the sangam and visited the Bindu Madhava temple, one of the important Krishna temples in Allahabad located several kilometers upstream. Sri Chaitanya`s footprints can also be found nearby at a place called Dashashvamedha Ghat, near the Triveni Sangam. This is where He imparted His teachings to Srila Rupa Gosvami on the science of bhakti-yoga for several days. And across the river from the sangam is another temple on a small hill that Sri Chaitanya visited, and about two miles downstream is the house of the saint Vallabhacarya, where Sri Chaitanya had lunch with the saint. So, for the pilgrim, the area of the confluence of these sacred rivers is of most importance than any place in Allahabad.

    Kumbha MelaKumbha Mela originated as a meeting place for the main religious heads in the country to exchange ideas. Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang, who visited India in the seventh century of the Christian era, described of a similar festival at Prayag, presided by King Harsha. King Harshvardhan arranged the Kumbha Mela as a great fair and meeting of saints, sages and sects, called the Mahamoksha Parishad. It is not clear whether the festival celebrated in Harsha`s time was actually Kumbh Mela; for the festival over which Harsha presided came every five years and Kumbh Mela at present comes once in 12 years.

    Then Adi Shankaracharya, around the eighth century AD, arranged the Mela to be close to what we still see today. He directed the ten main Akharas or religious sects, to assemble regularly at the Kumbha Mela in order to maintain contact with each other, as well as have religious discourses and provide spiritual guidance for the masses. It is also believed that Adi Shankaracharya established the sects of the babas in order to help defend the faith. These babas were expected to have the ability to easily give up their lives, if necessary, in order to preserve the culture. Being followers of Adi Shankaracharya, they were mostly Shaivites.

    Kumbha Mela is attended by millions of people on a single day. A ritual bath at a predetermined time and place is the major event of this festival. Other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men/women and the poor, and religious assemblies where doctrines are debated and standardized. Kumbha Mela (especially the Maha Kumbha Mela) is the most sacred of all the Hindu pilgrimages. Thousands of holy men/women (monks, saints, sadhus) grace the occasion by their presence. The suspiciousness of Kumbha Mela is in part, attributed to the gathering of thousands of holy men/women at one place on earth.

    According to astrologers, the `Kumbh Fair` takes place at Hardwar when the planet Jupiter enters Aquarius and the Sun enters Aries during the Hindu month of Chaitra. It takes place at Allahabad, when Jupiter is in Aries or Taurus and the Sun and Moon are in Capricorn during the Hindu month of Magha (January-February); at Nasik, when Jupiter and the Sun are in Leo in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada (August-September). It takes place at Ujjain, when Jupiter is in Leo and the Sun is in Aries, or when Jupiter, the Sun, and the Moon are in Libra during the Hindu month of Vaisakha (April-May).

    Kumbha MelaTo watch the Kumbh Mela processions is to witness the march of the ages. The holy saints pass by on their various and sundry conveyances -elephants, horses, palanquins, chariots, cars, and camels. Devotees are overwhelmed by the palpable spiritual vibrations that pervade the entire atmosphere. The parade of saints marches towards the Ganges River. The sounds - the shout and cries of ash-smeared sadhus - mingle with the neighing of horses, trumpeting of elephants, grunting of camels, bellowing of bulls. In the midst of this cacophony of gongs, drums, trumpets, conch shells and bells, musicians and dancers perform.

    Prayag Snan or bathing in the confluence of the river Ganges and Jamuna is of great importance. It is believed, that it washes away all the sins and the cycle of rebirth and death ends as the soul becomes one with God Almighty.

    It is related in the Rig-veda that the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers are like white and blue-colored streams that mingle at Prayaga, which give immortality to humans when they bathe in it. The Brahma Purana mentions that bathing in the month of Magh at the bank of the Ganga and Yamuna at Prayaga gives the results of millions and millions of Ashvamedha rituals.

    It offers the chance to transcend, to reach beyond the endless suffering of material existence and reincarnation and enter the level of liberation, salvation, and immortality. It promises to purify us in the spiritual sense, and merge or become connected with the Divine in all of us.

    Kansa Ka Mela

    Kansa Ka MelaThis fair is held at Mathura (sacred to Krishna) in October-November to comme-morate the destruction of the wicked Kansa by Krishna and his brother Balarama. Effigies of Kansa are erected at the fair. The effigies are beaten with sticks amidst applause, celebrating the victory of Krishna. At an appointed hour, two boys dressed as Krishna and Balarama, come riding either in a chariot or on horses. They are showered with flowers. Then, the two aim shafts at the evil demon, upon which pilgrims destroy the effigies.
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