Kumbh Mela – History, Venue, Type & Details

Kumbh Mela is a festival where millions of devotees gather to take a bath in the waters of the Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Godavari, and Kshipra rivers.

According to legends, whoever baths in the water breaks the death and life cycle, therefore, that person becomes purified and attains Moksha. Death and the life cycle is a cycle where one gets reborn again and again due to his past and present sins, hence bathing in the holy Ganga, Saraswati, Yamuna, Godavari, and Kshipra rivers break this circle. 

This festival lasts for 55 days and according to the reports, In 2013, around 100 million people came to be spiritually blessed in the Mela that was held in Prayag. Every Kumbh Mela attracts millions of people and hence, it has been included in the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The first written record of this Mela is found in a book of Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang or Xuanzang. He visited it during the reign of King Harshavardhana (606 to 647 CE)

Mythology and Puranas

The mythology behind Kumbh Mela is stated in Bhagwat Purana, Naradiya Purana, Vishnu Purana, Padma Purana, Agni Purana, Skand Purana, and Vayu Purana. Now, Let’s see what the epic tale was.

Once God Indra was travelling on his elephant and in his path came the short-tempered Saga Durvasa. He presented a garland to Indra. Even though the garland was a gift to only Indra, still he wore it to his elephant. By seeing this, Durvasa got angry and cursed him and all the other gods that they will be deprived of all their powers and glory.

Consequently, all the gods approached the Supreme Lord Vishnu to get a solution for breaking the curse. Vishnu suggested that they have to do Samudra Manthan (churning from the ocean of milk) in order to get back the former glory and power. Now as the cursed has made all the gods powerless so Vishnu told them to take the help of demons for churning. 

Demons agreed to help but on the condition that whatever comes out of it should be shared.

For churning, Mountain Mandara was chosen as a rod and the king of serpents known as Vasuki was chosen as a rope. Now, the head side of the Vasuki was pulled by demons and the tail side was pulled by gods. Because of churning, 14 Ratnas emerged from the ocean, out of which, one consisted of the Nectar that will bring the powers back of the gods.

In addition to bringing the powers back, nectar also consisted of a feature of Immortality. By knowing this, the demons rushed towards the pot of Amrit(Nectar) to take it, however, Garud of Vishnu on the instruction of Vishnu took the pot and flew away. While flying in the sky, some drops of nectar fell over three places known as The Prayagraj, Haridwar,  Nashik, and Ujjain.

As a result, these places became spiritual and it is said that those whoever baths in the holy rivers of these places during the Kumbh Mela get releases from all of his sins and attains Moksha.

So the Kumbh Mela happens at Sangam of Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati in Prayagraj. In addition, it happens at the Godavari river of the Nashik. Furthermore, the Mela also takes place at Ujjain’s river Kshipra and Haridwar’s Ganga.

Types of Kumbh Mela

There are five types of Kumbh Mela as given below

Maha Kumbh Mela

Maha Kumbh Mela happens only in Prayagraj and the festival is celebrated after 144 years. It doesn’t happen in everyone’s life as the duration is too long. The Maha Kumbh Mela is auspicious as compared to the other melas because of its duration.

Purna Kumbh Mela

Purna Kumbh Mela happens at all the four divine places and those are The Prayagraj, Haridwar,  Nashik, and Ujjain. Each place hosts the festival after 12 years rotationally. Each of the places gets ready with full zeal to host the festival and welcome the devotees.

Ardha Kumbh Mela

The Ardha Kumbh Mela Happens after every 6 years only. It happens only in Haridwar and Prayagraj. both the places celebrate the festival will full energy. the surroundings of the Mela are lightened up and well decorated

Kumbh Mela

Even though this is a normal Mela but it has the same importance as the other types of Fairs. The festival is celebrated after 3 years at all the spiritually blessed four religious places– Prayagraj, Nashik, Haridwar, and Ujjain.

Magh Kumbh Mela

This Mela happens only in a specific month of the Hindu calendar. Magh Kumbh Mela happens only in the Magh month of the Hindu calendar. Only Prayagraj host this fair.

Venues and Features of Kumbh Mela

following are the answers regarding the venues and features of the holy Kumbh Mela.

How the venue of the Kumbh Mela is decided?

The venues of all the Purna Kumbh Mela are depended on the locations of the Sun, Moon, and Jupiter. And the dates for the Mela are set according to the Vikram Samvat Calendar. And legends say that during these days water turns into the nector.

Prayagraj is the oldest venue for the Mela as compared to Nashik, Ujjain, and Haridwar. 

What happens in Kumbh Mela?

In Kumbh Mela various religious practices take place. For instance, there is Maha Prasad and Chanting of Mantras. There are also religious discussions, spirtual singing, Pravachan, Kirtan and Aartis happen. Besides these, various social activities also take place like free eye check-ups.

According to tradition, the First bath is taken by saints early in the morning from 3 A.M onwards. Such a bath is called  Shahi Snan. Only after the Shahi Snan, the other devotees are permitted to take the holy bath.

The Types of Sadhus and their faith

Sadhus are the main aspects of the Kumbh Mela. They give various teachings and blessings. The following are the types of Sadhus that play an important role in the success of the Mela.

Nagas 

In the Kumb Mela, they live in monasteries known as Akhara. The Nagas are naked and cover themselves with ashes, rosary beads, and garlands. They also carry Trishul.

Parivajakas 

Parivajakas sadhus never speak. They observe silence for eternity. And they carry a bell that they ring when they are walking so that the people will give them the way.

Kalpvasis 

Kalpvasis will stay near the river and they will meditate and perform various rituals. They will take a bath three times a day.

Shirshasinse 

The Sadhus are well advanced in a yoga posture that consists of standing on their heads and performing meditation.

Urdhwavahurs 

Urdhwavahurs are the sadhus who put their bodies through severe hardships.