What is the Kumbh Mela?
India’s Kumbh Mela is a clear example of India’s unique culture and tradition and diversity. A mass of ritual bathing and spiritual cleansing and religious chanting, the Ardh Kumbh Mela, which takes place in Haridwar in 2016, has a special significance for religious and non-religious pilgrims from across the country. The Kumbh, which means pitcher, is the symbol of spiritual awakening and is synonymous with all the holy activities in the daily life a pitcher (or kalash), also an integral part of all sacred activities in the Hindu culture. According to the Holy Scriptures, in a pitcher its mouth (opening) symbolizes the presence of Vishnu, its neck that of Rudra, the base of Brahama, all goddesses in the center and the entire oceans in the interior, thus encompassing all the four Vedas.
The Kumbh is also considered as the festival of knowledge, asceticism and devotion. One cannot miss the spirituality in the air – in between the smoke of the Yagya (religious sacrifice), the chanting of the Vedic mantras, the dances and based on various mythological epics, prayers of devotees and preaches from saints and sages, it is a festival of self-thinking and even considered a test of human devotion. The event has gained much international fame over the years and today witnesses millions of devotees from sadhus, foreign visitors, the common man and even the rich and famous.
Origin of the Kumbh
One of the biggest events for Hindus is the Kumbh Mela where millions worship together to free themselves of their sins and attain moksha. These sins or incomplete ideas that we store in our mind and body create a negative space. Devotes believe that dip in the Ganges during the Kumbh Mela will free them from their past sins or karma and will allow them to move be liberated and move to the heavenly abode without any suffering or pain. It is believed that pure thoughts of devotion and love can convert the chemical properties of water, making this water turn into Amrit or nectar of immortality. Millions of pilgrims from all walks of life gather at Kumbh Mela, seeking this life free of negativity and sins.
According to Hindu Mythology, the Kumbh Mela originates back to the time when the Gods (Devtas) and Demons (Asura) resided on earth and were constantly at war, to get the Amrita or elixir of endless life. According to some mythological scriptures, this war lasted for twelve days for the possession of Amrita, which fell in four places – the sacred Prayag (confluence) in Allahabad of Rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, where the Ganga River enters the plains from the mighty Himalayas in Haridwar, on the banks of Ksipra River at Ujjain and on the banks of Godavari River in Nasik. To commemorate this, the Maha Kumbh Mela is now celebrated in every twelve years at these four sacred places.
Ardh Kumbh Mela 2016
Haridwar is home to the 2016 Ardh Kumbh that started on the January 1 and will continue till April 30. During the 2004 Haridwar Ardh Kumbh Mela, more than 10 million devotees had gathered there including saints, priests, and yogis from all corners of India. Astrology suggests that the Kumbh Fair takes place when the Sun enters Aries and the planet Jupiter enters Aquarius. Depending on the movements and position of the Sun, Moon and Jupiter in different zodiac signs, the place for the Kumbh Mela is decided. These dates are calculated in advance for the Kumbh to be held. The ritual bathing at the holy banks of the river is the main event during Kumbh Mela. Devotional singing, religious assemblies and mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor are some other events at the fair. Kumbh Mela is one of the most auspicious and the most sacred of all Hindu pilgrimages.
Wellness at Ardh Kumbh Mela
The Kumbh is great opportunity for practitioners and scholars in the field of Yoga, Ayurveda, Spirituality, Medical Science, Psychiatry and Psychology to share their knowledge with other enthusiasts and put the spotlight on these ancient practices. Many international tourists visit the Kumbh Mela and thus the Kumbh becomes a meeting point for aesthetics and Yoga fraternity of various international sects. Many pioneers of Yoga who are only available on social, print or electronic media otherwise organize camps at the occasion of the Kumbh for the public.
Yoga as therapy can have a positive impact on the alternative therapy response globally thus the Kumbh is the ideal place to introduce Yoga and other therapies as a tool for world peace and humanity. The other health services including Ayurveda, Naturopathy, and other alternative therapies can also be introduced here.
Kumbh Mela for visitors
As an internationally acclaimed festival, even listed in The Guinness Book of Records as the â€œgreatest recorded number of human beings assembled with a common purposeâ€ in history, the Kumbh Mela is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for visitors.
The Kumbh Mela is an eye-opener for many visitors, giving them an opportunity to discover themselves in this mass of humanity.
Quoting Jack Hebner, the author of “Kumbha Mela: The World’s Largest Act of Faith”, he says, “The very foundation of my conception of life, the reality in which I lived, was shaken at its root. I was forced by circumstances to find a new identity within myself and adopt a completely new value system. My western values were not enough to deal with the profoundity of the Kumbh Mela. What ensued was an unforgettable experience and a true understanding of the Kumbh Mela. I began to understand why millions of people attend the Kumbh Mela and I began to imbibe an inkling of their faith.”
This is exactly what draws pilgrims, saints, sadhus and naga sadhus to the Kumbh. At the Kumbh, pilgrims have the chance to interact with many of these Sadhus, take their darshan (blessing) and seek their advice.
The Naga Sadhus, known for living a life in sync with nature and their nakedness, come in large numbers. They are known to smear their body with sacred ash or bhasma, which denotes the fleeting nature of life and is a constant reminder of the critical need for a human being to seek what is permanent and one’s true Self.
The festival also offers its visitors the opportunity to witness several unique rituals; including like taking a snan at 3am, witnessing Sadhus perform impossible tasks of endurance like standing on one leg; staying under water for hours; those who can read minds or stay buried in the sand upside down – for the whole duration of the Kumbh. Visitors are known to experience Siddhis – a spiritual attainment to do unusual things through sadhanas such as meditation and yoga. Besides taking a dip in the river thrice every day, visitors can also attend yoga classes, allocutions, take part in traditional programs and evening Aartis that will edify your soul, elevate your state of mind and submerge you in a state of peace and happiness. It’s also the one chance to meet many erudite Hindu mystical leaders, missionaries and sadhus, all in one place.
While there are several luxury and mid-range resorts and hotels within walking distance from the festival, visitors can also choose to live in tents along the river banks, among the sea of faces, the sounds and smells and energy of the place radiating through you. Kumbh Mela truly goes much beyond your imagination.
Haridwar, located on the foothills of the Shivalik range of Himalayas, is a place of immense natural beauty and home to the Holy River Ganges. Also known to Hindus as Mayapuri, Gangadwar and Mokshadwar, it is one of the most sacred cities of India.
There is more to the city of Haridwar, a place with immense natural beauty and a number of touristic attractions, mainly temples like the Mansa Devi Temple, Chandi Devi Temple, Maya Devi Temple, Har ki Pauri, Bharat Mata Mandir, Parad Shivling, Doodhadhari Barfani and the Daksha Mahadev Temple. Other attractions include the Neel Dhara Pakshi Vihar, Bhimgoda Tank, Sapt Rishi Ashram, Anandamayi Maa Ashram, Pawan Dham Temple and the Rajaji National Park.
How to reach Haridwar
The nearest domestic airport is Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun, located 35 kms from Haridwar whereas Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi is the nearby International Airport. Through rail route Railway Station(s) Haridwar Junction (HW), Motichur (MOTC) and Landaura (LDR) would be the nearest. Buses to Haridwar from major cities of the country are also available. Once you’ve reached Haridwar, be prepared to do a fair amount of walking as vehicle entry may get restricted when it gets busy though pedal rickshaws will be available.