Introduction: The Kumbh Mela is the largest public gathering and collective act of faith, anywhere in the world. Kumbh Mela, is a religious pilgrimage that is celebrated four times over a course of 12 years. The geographical location of Kumbh Mela spans over four locations in India and the Mela site keeps rotating between one of the four pilgrimages on four sacred rivers as listed below:
- Haridwar on the Ganges in Uttarakhand
- Ujjain on the Shipra in Madhya Pradesh
- Nashik on the Godavari in Maharashtra
- Prayagraj at the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Sarasvati in Uttar Prades.
The Kumbh Mela is an event that intrinsically encapsulates the science of astronomy, astrology, spirituality, ritualistic traditions, and socio-cultural customs and practices, making it extremely rich in knowledge.
The term ‘Kumbh’ comes from the root ‘kumbhak’ (the sacred pitcher of elixir of immortality). There is a mention of ‘Kumbh’ and the bathing ritual associated with it in the Rig Veda (verse 10.89.7). It speaks of the benefits of bathing at sangam during this period, elimination of negative influences and rejuvenation of mind and soul. Prayers for the ‘Kumbh’ are also expressed in Atharva Veda and Yajur Veda.
The story of Samudra Manthan, one of the best-known episodes in the Hindu mythology, narrated in the Bhagvad Purana states that the sacred alignments of celestial bodies directly relate to the Kumbh festival. It took 12 divine days to carry the Amrit to the heavens. As one divine day of Gods is equivalent to one year of the humans, the journey to the heavens symbolizes 12 years in human terms. That is why every twelfth year when Jupiter enters the Aries constellation on the day of the new moon in the month of Magh, the Kumbh festival is organized.
Mythological studies suggest that the Kumbh festival and the Ganga are related to each other. The Ganga flows in Prayagraj but Godavari of Nasik is also called the Ganga or the Gomti Ganga. Similarly, the Shipra (in Ujjain) is recognized as the north branch, the Ganga of Kashi. From that place onwards, Shipra becomes the east branch where it assimilates with the Ganga.
In continuation to the astrological calculation, the event of Kumbh takes place as per the following astrological positions:
- When Jupiter enters the Aquarius constellation along with the Sun moving in to the Aries constellation, the Kumbh festival is held at Haridwar.
- When Jupiter moves in to Leo, the Kumbh festival is held at Nasik on the banks of Godavari and in the event of Jupiter moving in to Leo and the Sun entering Aries, the Kumbh festival is held at Ujjain.
- When Jupiter enters Libra and the Sun and the Moon remain together on Kartik Amavasya (8th month of Hindu year) then also the Kumbh Festival is held at Ujjain.
- When Jupiter, the Sun, and the Moon enter Cancer on lunar conjunction (Amavasya), then also the Kumbh Festival is held on the banks of river Godavari.
- When Jupiter enters the Aries constellation and the Sun and the Moon are in Capricorn constellation, the Kumbh festival is held at Prayagraj on the new moon day.
- When the Sun is in Capricorn and Jupiter moves in to Taurus, the Kumbh festival is held at Prayagraj.
The Kumbh Mela is the only event in the world where no invitation is required yet millions of pilgrims gather to celebrate the holy event.
Apart from its primary bathing rituals, the social aspect of the festival also revolves around the various Yajnas, the chanting of Vedic Mantras, holy elucidations, traditional dances, devotional songs, programs based on mythical stories, and prayers. Religious assemblies are held where doctrines are debated, standardized and conducted by renowned saints and sages. A prominent part of the festival is the act of donations to the poor and helpless, to the saints, and to cows. Donations range from basic food and clothing to even precious metals.
RITUALS OF KUMBH
‘Kumbh Mela’, devotees make a vessel from leaves on which a lamp made of wheat flour filled with oil along with a cotton strand is lighted and floated on water as an offering of gratitude towards the river.
Floating lighted Diyas on flowing water seem like twinkling stars reflecting divine brilliance in the Ganga. During Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj, this presents a mesmerising scene.
Flames of the lamps signify bowing to the waters of the sacred rivers and on the other, the holy fumes emanating from the lamps appear to play the mystic of heaven on earth.
According to ‘Brahma Purana’ and ‘Padma Purana’, the period of Kalpvas is from Ekadashi of the full moon in the Paush month up to ‘Maghi Ekadashi’. Maharshi Dattatreya outlines the ritual of Kalpvas in detail in the ‘Padma Purana’. According to the scripture, a Kalpvasi has to observe the 21 rules through mind, speech, and action. These rules are as follows:
- True speech i.e. abstinence from untruthful
- Mitigation of senses
- Feeling benevolence for all living beings
- Observance of celibacy
- Renunciation of all indulgence
- Rising before sunrise
- Bathing thrice a day
- Observance of ‘Trikal Sandhya’
- ‘Pind Daan’ of ancestors
- Donate as per capacity
- Afferent Jaap
- Shetra Sanyas ( non-violation of reserved space),
- Renunciation from criticism
- Offer services to ascetics and saints
- Meals are to be taken only once a day
- Sleeping on the ground and
- Denouncing Gangodak-Agni.
Adi Guru Shankracharya attempted to unite organizations of ascetics to protect the ‘Sanatan’ way of life. Therefore, various Akharas were established for uniting followers of similar religious customs, views and ideologies. The saints and ascetics associated with an Akhara specializes in both scriptures and armaments.
Akharas are a symbol of social order, unity, culture and ethics. Their main objective is establishment of spiritual values in the society. The greatest responsibility of Akhara Mathas is to establish ethical values in the society.
Akahras may be categorised into the following three sections based on their favoured deity:
- Shaiva Akahras : The favoured deity is Lord Shiva. They worship Lord Shiva in various forms based on the specific beliefs and ideologies of their organization.
- Vaishnava Akharas : Lord Vishnu is the favoured deity of this sect. They worship Lord Vishnu in various forms based on the specific beliefs and ideologies of their organization.
- Udaseen Akharas : Chandra Dev, the son of the first guru of the Sikh community is considered as the founder of the Udaseen Akhara. Followers of this of this sect principally offer their adulations to ‘ॐ’.
Lord Adi Guru Shankaracharya established four ‘Mathas’ in all four directions and appointed ‘Dharmacharyas’ in all the ‘Mathas’. Afterwards, for protection of religion Adi Shankaracharya founded ‘Dashanam Sanyas’ in which three (Ashram, Tirth, Sarasvati) became ‘Dandi Sanyasis’ and rest seven were established as’ Akharas’
Ascetics who hold wooden logs called ‘Bhramha Danda’ are known as ‘Dandi’ Sanyasis. Organization of Dandi Sanyasis is called ‘Dandi Bara’. ‘Dand Sanyas’ is not a sect but it is a tradition of Ashram system. Under this system only Brahmins have the right to take up this Sanyas. It is said that Lord Narayana himself was the first Dandi Sanyasi who held the ‘Danda’.
Acharya Bara sect is also known as ‘Ramanuj Sect. The first Acharya of this sect was ‘Shathkop’ who used to sell winnowing basket (soop);
Prayagwals share a very close relationship with historically celebrated Tirathraj Prayagraj. The name ‘Prayagwal’ refers to the original citizens of Prayagraj who continue to live here from many generations.
Key Highlights of Prayagraj Kumbh 2019
1. UPSRTC’s 500 Shuttle Buses were set to make a new Guinness World Record in Kumbh 2019 at Prayagraj.
2. Preparations for welcoming the foreign guests from 192 countries coming to Prayagraj on 22 February were underway by the Indian Council for Culture. The guests experienced Divya and Bhavya Kumbh.
3. Devotees and tourists can get a taste of local delicacies from 14 states of India at the food court in sector 1 in Kumbh Mela. With a seating capacity for over 400 people, there were over 24 counters to satiate your taste buds during the visit to Kumbh Mela.
4. For the convenience of the visitors and pilgrims of Kumbh Mela, 10 shuttle buses provided free service in Prayagraj.
5. Ahead of Kumbh 2019, the North Central Railway (NCR) had introduced a public address system for making announcements in seven different languages: English, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam; at railways station. This system guided visitors and pilgrims coming from non-Hindi speaking states to attend Kumbh 2019.
6. A large number of women devotees were also reaching Prayagraj to attend the Grand Kumbh 2019. For the convenience of women Mela Authority had established Temporary Changing Rooms on 35 Ghats of Prayagraj. Over 1100 changing rooms had been established at the different bathing locations across Kumbh Mela area in Prayagraj.
7. For the convenience of the visitors and pilgrim during Kumbh 2019, Over 100 trains from various parts of the country had been directed for temporary stoppage in Prayagraj. All non-stop trains were have stoppage at Allahabad Junction, Naini Junction, Prayag Junction, Allahabad City Station and Jhunsi Station from 13th January.
8. For the convenience of visitors and pilgrims coming to Kumbh 2019 from other states, 22 special trains had been approved. North-Central Railways had received request for more than 50 trains.
9. To give a hassle free experience to the visitors and pilgrims, North-Central Railway have installed Electronic ticketing machines (ETMs) book tickets of ordinary, mail and superfast express trains. Being used for the first time in a Kumbh, these ETMs would be provided to Rail Kumbh Sevaks present at the Mela ground to help visitors.
10. For the safety during Kumbh 2019, Jal Police has set up 16 all control rooms.
11. More than 400 volunteers trained at Police line located in the Mela ground of Prayagraj. These Kumbh Seva mitra were shortlisted through Kumbh Sewa Mitra events conducted in various colleges of Prayagraj and deployed all across the Mela area to support multiple departments and provide assistance to the visitors and pilgrims during Kumbh Mela.
12. The grand festival of humanity and spirituality Kumbh 2019 was starting from 15th January 2019. Around 120 million people from across the world were expected to attend Kumbh Mela in the holy city Prayagraj of Uttar Pradesh. With an aim to feed 10, 000 people every day, Akshaya Patra foundation had established a centralised public kitchen in Mela area.
13. During Kumbh 2019 Water Ambulance facility was also be available. A doctor along with 5 staff members was available in this water ambulance to provide treatment in case of any emergency.
14. Uttar Pradesh police was geared up for the security during kumbh 2019 with hi-tech equipment. In addition to the launch of rescue operations, police had acquired quad bikes for quick movement on sand of the Sangam area. These hi-tech quad bikes had wide tyres powerful engine, which make it easier and quicker to move swiftly on the sand during emergencies.
15. Located in Akbar Fort of holy city Prayagraj – Saraswatikoop was be opened for the visitors and piligrims during Kumbh Mela. Ahead of Kumbh 2019 a statue of sarawati was installed where devotees can worship.
16. Uttar-pradesh Tourism Coperation (UPSTDC) had announced the launch of a helicopter service namely ‘joyride’ for a tour of kumbh 2019. This exciting helicopter service was start from 17th January and would continue till February.
17. For surveillance during the Kumbh Mela Dail 100, Video conferencing, CCTV, UAV, VMS and Public announcement system were utilized.
18. An SMS campaign had been initiated by the Prayagraj Mela Authority for the convenience of pilgrims coming for Kumbh 2019. More than 10 crore SMS were sent to citizens in 3 waves, providing information on various aspects and facilities available for Kumbh 2019. The SMS campaign was being facilitated by Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea.
19. Around 4000 hotspots were being set up across the Mela Area for providing high speed Wi-Fi for all pilgrims and visitors.
20. A food court with over 40 food stalls will be set up this time.
21. For the first time, milk booths have been allotted on a big scale. 48 milk booths were be set up by Mother Dairy and Amul.
22. Allahabad Bank, the first bank to be established in the Mela area for Kumbh 2019