Kumbh Mela - Harmony in Diversity

UNESCO acknowledged the Kumbh Mela of profound significance for northern India in December 2017 and, thus, the festival got a place on the organization's prestigious Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List. This mesmerizing occasion, which takes place only once in 12 years, attracts incredible pomp and show with such overwhelming numbers of attendance that it is mind-boggling.

Under the Kumbh Mela's shade, seekers find themselves in a spiritual congregation with Hindu holy men eagerly engaging in bonding discussions about feelings of devotion and sharing their religious knowledge. Every day, many people who come to enjoy this stunning festival gather here, and the venue is the largest religious meeting place in the world. Celebrated every year in four different venues, the Kumbh Mela which happens on a cycle is a platform where the saints, yogis, and priests from all over India gather together.

Not only with its vastness but the Kumbh Mela also became the leading spiritual attraction in India and caught the imagination of the people by casting a magical spell. Based on ancient wisdom, the event melds astronomy, astrology, spirituality, and firmly established ritualistic traditions, inspiring it with an abundant reservoir of knowledge. The multi-city modality of celebrating this auspicious day sprinkles many social and cultural activities across the nation, affirming its significance.

The exhaustive traditions intrinsic to Kumbh Mela are transmitted through several modes such as ancient religious scriptures, oral narratives passed on from one generation to the other, historical records, and books written by renowned historians. Nevertheless, the ultimate strategy of safeguarding and preserving this heritage remains in the hands of the exalted sadhus that dwell in these ashrams and akhadas, wherein they uphold and transmit the holy lessons and activities that have been well ingrained over the long time of the Kumbh Mela.

Rituals of Kumbh Mela

The Kumbh Mela is the biggest religious event and people come there to seek spiritual connection. They may dip in the river, have a dialogue about religion, feed comes to poor people, and sing songs to show their devotion. This is also an opportunity for them to have debates about religious doctrines. During this time, you can easily happen to run into many yogis, sadhus, and sages who live in the mountains as they usually leave from there, especially for the Kumbh Mela event. They tag the particular event 'blissful darshan'.

Perhaps the most vital component of the Kumbh Mela is the Yajnas, the fire rituals performed by priests and sages. They say that those rites purify the air and bring luck from the gods.

Let's understand some rituals of the Kumbh Mela:

  • 1- Shahi Snan (Royal Bath): This is the time when people get a sacred bath in the holy river. They take it to the effect that it will kill off the bad and thus everyone and everything will be liberated from being born and dying again.
  • 2- Kund Puja: People bow to the sacred source of the water, giving thanks for its capacity to purify their spirits.
  • 3- Akharas’ Processions: They are this kind of particular walk in which different groups of holy people display respect for old traditions.
  • 4- Parikrama: As the time goes by, Kumbh Mela is not the same. Among different old rituals, like "Parikrama" where they walk around sacred places, some have declined in recent years. In the very next season, the Shri Akhada Parishad and Mela Authority will be trying to lay down new paths for the Parikrama and renovate the aged temples. For this purpose, they look for the possibility of youth to know about the rich story and the significance of Kumbh Mela.
  • 5- Kalpvas: Lastly, staying at the holy place of rivers’ meeting during the few days of the Kumbh Mela, which is called Kalpvas, is also important. This lasts from a particular day of one month to a particular day of another month. Rishi Dattatreya instructs all the norms of Kalpvas in detail. Kalpavas oblige people to abide strictly by their thoughts, words, and actions otherwise they can not achieve their goals.

Prayagraj Bathing Ghats

Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj includes multiple ceremonies with the bathing rites standing out as the most celebrated congregations among all. Millions of pilgrims plunge themselves into this bathing ritual at the Triveni Sangam. Through this way, it is thought that one may wash away one's sinful nature thus making both him and his ancestors free from rebirth.

Besides ritual bathing, the pilgrims also worship at the riverside and attend sermons conducted by different sadhus and ascetics. Along with Triveni Ghat, there are many other ghats spread out throughout the year where the devotees, both local and from distant places, come to perform rituals, bathe, and give alms in the hope of achieving merit.

Some of the most popular Ghats are -

Ram Ghat

This Ghat, built on the Ganges in the area of Sangam, is the most prominent one. It's a direct road to Kali Sadak on the Triveni side. Bathing oneself here is the thing that has most of the people doing it at the ghat daily.

Shivkoti Ghat

Near Teliarganj the Shivkuti area lies and this sector happens on the banks of the Ganges. Adjacent to them are Narayan Ashram Ghat, Sitaram Dham, and Koteshwar Mahadev Ghat, known for their colorful gathering of worshipers during the Teej festival.

Balua Ghat

One of the most popular ghats, which occupy the banks of the Yamuna River in the old city with pavement stairs, is Balua ghat. It is the abode of Yamuna Ji. The beautiful scenery along with Baradari Ghat is an added attraction of this place. This fair is conducted here, in the Kartik month, when a whole pile of worshippers gets together.

Gau Ghat

This kind of ghat is situated on the banks of the Yamuna River close to the railway bridge, which is a part of the Delhi-Howrah railway line. Local people use this area as a place to bathe the entire year. Additionally, there is a community boat club in the nearby area which people use for their enjoyment. The holy city of Haridwar hosts the Triveni Mahotsav fairs as well.

Saraswati Ghat

This ghat is situated near the Akbar's fort and the banks of the Yamuna River. Moreover, there is a scenic park near the ghat. Visitors come here not only for bathing but also for boating. People can choose here anytime a boat to go to Sangam. Next, the temple of Manikarnikeshwar Mahadev is situated close to this Ghat.

In the Prayagraj (Allahabad) fair, which is going to be held between the years 2024-2025 (Purn Kumbh or Maha Kumbh Mela), the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers serves as the venue. It is held in the winter of January and February as per the Hindu calendar's month of Magha. Makar Sankranti is the first day taken as the beginning of opening the pools for public swimming. Such a cycle encompasses a period in which Jupiter occupies Aries or Taurus either, while the Sun and Moon remain in Capricorn.

Bathing Dates

Below is a list of bathing dates for Kumbh Mela 2025 -

Paush Purnima Snan 13 January 2025
Makar Sankranti 14 January 2025
Mauni Amavasya 29 January 2025
Basant Panchami 3 February 2025
Achala Saptami 4 February 2025
Maghi Purnima 12 February 2025
Maha Shivratri 26 February 2025

Sadhu Rituals

Sadhus are holy people in the life of Hinduism and they are on the way to reach 'moksha' which means to be free from the re-birth cycle. Now, the number of Sadhus in India is between 4-5 million.

The word 'Sadhu' derives from the Sanskrit language and means a learned person who renounces worldly material things in search of 'moksha'. They live in caves or forests, on hilltops, or in temples, and lead a simple life.

Sadhus live their lives by the words of these Sages, Rishis, who wrote important Hindu scriptures and texts such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. They strive to acquire knowledge and become elucidated. They consider philosophies such as non-dualism, qualified monism, dualism, and dialectical materialism which are helpful to them in exploring deeply the mystery of life.

Sadhus followed the teachings of ancient Rishis and Sages, who were wise and wrote important Hindu texts like the Ramayana and Mahabharata. They focus on gaining knowledge and enlightenment. They believe in philosophies like non-dualism, qualified monism, dualism, and dialectical materialism, which help them understand life deeply.

A group named "Akharas" does the preservation of Hindu teachings and traditions. They also have holy men called sadhus and saints. These sages follow the rigid regulations in the manifestation of their faith. Some survive on an average of one meal a day, while others wash their body four times a day. They wear thin clothes or coat themselves with ashes.

Each Akhara specializes in a particular deity, such as Lord Vishnu or Lord Shiva. Every three years, on the occasion of a Kumbh Mela festival, the Sadhus of 13 different Akharas participate and meet with the pilgrims. A few rituals, such as the custom of Shahi Snan, begin after the Sadhus (a group of ascetics) have dipped into the sacred river first.

The Kumbh Mela is graced by thirteen Akharas. Among them there are seven devoted to Lord Shiva their names are Mahanirvani and Atal. Both of them, Nirvana and Digambar, praise Lord Vishnu, similar to the one who had attained Nirvana in their earlier life. The remaining three are Sikh Akharas, like Bara Panchayati Udasins, Chota Panchayati Udasin, and Nirmal.

The true devotees are often termed as Kalpavasis during the time of Kumbh Mela. They leave world comforts involving themselves with day-long fasting, eating nothing but vegetarian food, and swearing an oath of celibacy and non-violence for all their lives.

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