Kumbh mela assumes immense importance among the people in India. It is the only festival that occurs once every twelve years. The mela forms the largest religious gathering in the world. Hundred of thousands of sadhus and yogis from far away places come especially to take a holy dip in the sacred Ganga Water. The whole atmosphere conjures up the vision of time honored rituals and immense faith that people in India, still have for the ancient living traditions.
The pilgrimage occurs four times every twelve years, at four locations including Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. Each twelve year cycle includes Maha Kumbh mela at Prayag (Allahabad) and others are termed as Ardh (Half) Kumbh Mela, attended by millions of people. Last Maha Kumbh held here was in 2001. 2013 Maha Kumbh Mela will be held in January and February Allahabad (Prayag).
The history of Kumbh mela is as old as the creation of the universe legends. The story behind its celebration goes somewhat like this - thousands of years ago, during he Vedic age, gods and demons agreed to churn the ocean to retrieve the Kumbh (pot) containing nectar of immortality (Amrit) and it was to be shared equally between the two. However, when the pot containing the amrita appeared, the demons run away with the pot. This led to the fight between the gods and demons.
For the continuous twelve days and twelve nights, they fought with against each other in order to get amrita. It is said that during the war, drops of amrita fell on to four places - Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. Thus, Kumbh mela is observed at four places where nectar (amrita) fell.
A sacred bath at a predetermined time and place is the major event of this auspicious mela. Legends has it that by taking a dip in the holy Ganges on this event, one can be freed from all the sins of life. Some say it is the direct way to attain Moksha.
Apart from ritual bath, other highlights of the fair includes spiritual discussions, devotional singing, religious gatherings, and mass feeding of holy men/women and the poor. 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.
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