gathering of millions
Kumbh Mela sees largest gathering of human beings on Earth.
Hindu pilgrimage occurs four times every 12 years.
Ritual bath the major event of festival.
secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, I led
18 senior pundits to India from February 2 to attend the
Ardh Kumbh Mela in Prayag (Allahabad), India.
The Kumbh Mela witnesses the largest gathering of human
beings on Earth over a period of six weeks. The confluence
of the three holy rivers, the Ganga, Jumuna and the dried-up
Saraswati, is regarded by Hindus from time immemorial as
a most divine spot on Earth to offer prayers and to have
Colonial historians have recorded that the Saraswati is
only a mythical river that existed in the minds and imagination
of Hindus. With technological advances, however, satellite
imaging has clearly established the dried-up riverbed of
the mighty and holy Saraswati River.
The archeological excavation at the ancient cites of Harappa
and Mohenjodaro clearly indicate that the population of
these cities that were located on the banks of the Saraswati
abandoned their homes when the Saraswati dried up.
Archeologists and historians are still researching to discover
why this mighty river ceased to flow. Whether the course
of the river was changed by some unrecorded major earthquake
or other movements in the land is still being investigated.
What we do know, however, is that the waters of the Saraswati
met with the waters of the Ganga and the Jumuna at Pryag
The 2001 Kumbh Mela was reported as the largest religious
gathering on Earth. Around 70 million people from around
the world participated at the holy city of Prayag (India)
Kumbh Mela (Pitcher Festival) is a Hindu pilgrimage that
occurs four times every 12 years and rotates among four
locations: Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.
Each 12-year cycle includes one Maha Kumbh Mela (Great Kumbh
Mela) at Prayag, which is attended by tens of millions of
people, making it the largest gathering anywhere in the
After visiting the Kumbh Mela of 1895, Mark Twain wrote:
is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make
multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter
without hesitation or complained upon such incredible journeys
and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is
done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which
it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it
is beyond imagination marvelous to our kind of people, the
The precise dates of the Kumbh Mela are astronomically determined,
based upon precise calculations of the positions of the
sun, the moon and Jupiter. At Prayag, the Maha Kumbh Mela
is held in the month of Magha (January/February in the Gregorian
The highest spiritual merit is attached to bathing on the
new moon day, Amavasya, when Jupiter is in Taurus and both
the sun and moon are in Capricorn.
At Haridwar, the Kumbh Mela is held in the months of Phalgun
and Chaitra (February/March/April), when the sun passes
to Aries, the moon is in Sagittarius and Jupiter is in Aquarius.
In Ujjain, the festival is held in the month of Vaishakha
(May), when other planets are in Libra, the sun and moon
are in Aries and Jupiter is in Leo.
At Nashik, the Kumbh Mela takes place in the month of Sharvana
(July), when the sun and moon are in Cancer and Jupiter
is in Scorpio.
It is also believed that the elixir of life is filled in
a kumbh (pot) in Swarg (Heaven) so with certain combinations
of sun-moon-Jupiter the elixir falls from Heaven to Earth,
and Kumbh Mela is held at those locations.
Another legend tells that the observance of Kumbh Mela is
based upon the belief that thousands of years ago, gods
and demons made a temporary agreement to work together churning
amrita (the nectar of immortality) from the Ksheera Sagarar
(primordial ocean of milk), and to share the nectar equally.
However, when the kumbh (urn) containing the amrita appeared,
the demons ran away with it and were chased by the gods.
For 12 days and 12 nights (equivalent of 12 human years),
the gods and demons fought in the sky for possession of
this pot of amrita. It is said that during the battle, drops
of amrita fell at four places: Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain
and Nashik. Thus the Kumbh Mela is observed at these four
The major event of this festival is a ritual bath on the
banks of the rivers in each town. Other activities include
religious discussion, devotional singing, mass feeding of
holy men and women and the poor, and religious assemblies
where doctrines are debated and standardised.
Every six years there is an Ardh (or half) Mela at Prayag
(Allahabad). The actual dates are dependent on stellar constellations.
It is this six-year event that the Maha Sabha is attending.
Satnarayan Maharaj is the
secretary general of the
Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha