Kumbh mela, by far India’s most revered and sacred festival, is now also inscribed by the UNESCO as the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Tens of millions of devotees attend the purna kumbh mela that takes place every 12 years in Prayagraj, Haridwar, Nashik-Triyambakeshwar and Ujjain. Apart from this, the maha kumbh takes place after 12 kumbh mela festivals or (approximately) after 144 years and the ardhakumbh mela takes place every six years between the two purna kumbh festivals in Prayagraj and Haridwar.
Kumbh literally means kalash in Hindi or pitcher in English. It is rooted in ancient spiritual, cultural, social, astronomical and astrological traditions, which are enriched with knowledge of the ages. The mythological tale associated with it is that of how Gods and demons fought over the sacred pitcher (Kumbh) of Amrit (nectar of immortality) called the Ratna of Samudra Manthan. It is widely believed that Lord Vishnu (disguised as the enchantress ‘Mohini’) whisked the Kumbh out of the grasp of the covetous demons who had tried to claim it. As he took it heavenwards, a few drops of the precious nectar fell on the four sacred sites we know as Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik and Prayagraj (for more on this, please log into https://kumbh.gov.in/en/mythological-significance).
Tens of millions of pilgrims come to the mela to take the holy dip at the sangam (the confluence of Ma Ganga, Ma Yamuna and Ma Saraswati rivers) at Prayagraj. There are many beautiful rituals attached to the Kumbh mela that are performed each day of the entire period of the mela – aartis (both morning and evening), the bathing ritual or snan at the triveni sangam (where Ma Saraswati river, which is usually invisible, is said to be seen only at the time of Kumbh), kalpavas, deep daan – the offering of lighted earthen lamps at various points in the river, at the temples, and so on.
This year the ardhakumbh mela is being celebrated in Prayagraj from the 15th January to the 31st of March. For more information on planning your travel and stay, please log into https://kumbh.gov.in/en/how-to-reach.
For more information on the spiritual and astrological significance of the Kumbh Mela, please log into https://kumbh.gov.in/en – the official government website of the Kumbh Mela.