This year Kumbh Melaa celebrations have started on 14th January at Allaahaabaad and people have started coming there to take bath in Sangam. This is Mahaa Kumbh Melaa this year. Some 100 million people are expected there.
Kumbh Melaa, held in India, is the largest gathering of the world for any religious occasion. It is the most sacred of all pilgrimages. Kumbh Melaa contains two words - Kumbh and Melaa. Kumbh means a pitcher or pot without handle, and Melaa means fair, thus Kumbh Melaa means a fair of a pot. This is indeed a fair of a pot. Pot of what for which so many, in millions, people come to attend it? It is the pot of Amrit (Divine elixir). Normally it is held every 3 years and at four places - at Haridwaar at the River Ganges, at Naasik at the River Godaavaree, at Ujjain at the River Kshipraa and at Prayaag (Allaahaabaad) at Sanagam - the confluence of the River Gangaa, Yamunaa and the mythical River Saraswatee, where
bathing for purification from sin is considered especially efficacious.
History of Kumbh
History of Kumbh may be found from the very olden times. It is recorded in our several religious books, such as Bhaagvat Puraan, Bhaagvat Puraan, 8/3-4, Padm Puraan (here this story comes two times, once in Padm Puraan, 1-Srishti-5, and second in Padm Puraan, 5-Uttar-37, in Vishnu Puraan Vishnu Puraan, 1-Pratham-3, in Vaalmeeki Raamaaayan V-Raamaayan, 1/14/45, in Mahaabhaarat Mahaabhaarat, G-0-Prolog-6. It is linked with the Saagar Manthan story.
Once Durvaasaa Rishi was coming from Bhagavaan's court carrying a flower garland in his hands. He met Indra coming from opposite side riding on his Airaavat elephant. He
considered Indra worthy of that sacred garland, so he threw that garland towards Indra. Indra caught it in his hands but in his pride he threw that garland on his elephant. Elephant had thrown it on the ground by his trunk and crushed it under his feet. Seeing this bad treatment to his Divine garland, Durvaasaa Jee got very furious. He immediately cursed Indra - "You have insulted the Divine garland like this, you will lose your wealth, grace. kingdom and prosperity very soon." So according to the curse of Durvaasaa Muni Indra's all prosperity and kingdom.
Indra got very sad seeing his condition, so he went to Vishnu and told Him his saga. Vishnu suggested him that he should extend friendship with Daitya Raaj Bali and inspire him to churn the Milky Ocean (Ksheer Saagar) to get Amrit and other things which will be distributed between both of them." Vishnu further explained to him that he should not run after small small things coming out from the Sea. Indra agreed and got Bali also agreed on those conditions. Bali also got agreed and both Devtaa and Asur came to Ksheer Saagar. As Vishnu had directed Indra, they put the Mandaraachal Parvat as the churning rod, and took Vaasuki Naag as the churning rope. They could not move Mandaraachal Parvat themselves so Vishnu helped them. He kept it on His Garud and established it in the Sea. Now they started churning the sea, but the Sea was very turbulent so the Mandaraachal Parvat was shaking all the time. Vishnu again came to rescue. He incarnated as a Kashchap (Tortoise) and kept the Parvat over His back, buut still the Parvat was not stable, so again Vishnu helped them and kept His hand over it to make it stable. Then only the churning got started. It is said that 14 various gems came out of the Sea. Although their list varies in all the sources where Saagar Manthan story has been described - see the list HERE, still some of the things are the same in all sources.
As soon as the Amrit came out of the Sea, both Devtaa and Daitya ran to snatch the Kumbh (pitcher or pot) of Amrit from Dhanvantari's hands. Since Daitya were more powerful, they snatched the pot from Dhanvantari's hands and ran away. Seeing this
Devtaa remained helpless. Vishnu again came to rescue to Devtaa. Daitya saw a very beautiful woman coming to their side. She was Vishnu's Mohinee incarnation. She mesmerized Daitya, took the Amrit Kumbh from them and started distributing Amrit to both of them. But how could Bhagvaan give Amrit to Daitya? Mohinee set them in two lines - Devtaa and daitya, and started distributing Amrit to Devtaa and liquor to Daitya.
Killing of Raahu
Raahu named Daitya had known Mohinee's trick that She was giving Amrit to Devtaa and liquor to Daitya, so he quietly got up from his own line, assumed Devtaa's form and sat among Devtaa, between Soorya Dev and Chandramaa. When Mohinee came to give Amrit to Devtaa, She gave some to Raahu also, not knowing that he was Daitya. In the meantime Soorya and Chandramaa recognized him as a Daitya and told this to Mohinee. Mohinee took out Her Chakra and cut the neck of Raahu immediately. But by that Raahu had gulped some Amrit, that is why he had become immortal. Now Raahu's body was divided in two parts, and because of drinking Amrit, he did not die, rather both parts of
his body remained alive. His head was known as Raahu and his trunk was called Ketu. Brahmaa Jee gave his both the parts the status of Graha (planets). Thus they are not any visible Graha, but they are only the shadow planets. Since that day Raahu has
the enmity with Soorya and Chandramaa. Now he is after them and whenever he gets chance he tries to afflict them by swallowing them - on Amaavasyaa (New Moon day) and Poornimaa (Full Moon day) respectively, which we call Soorya Grahan (Solar Eclipse) and Chandra Grahan (Lunar Eclipse) day.
What Happened to Amrit Kumbh?
Seeing all this, Daitya had started fight with Devtaa. Meanwhile Amrit Kumbh was lying unattended. Lest Daitya take it again, Vishnu's ride Garud Jee took it and flew away. Devtaa and Daitya fight continued for 12 Divine days (12 human or solar years), and all this time Garud Jee continued to fly carrying the Amrit Kumbh. When he got tired he used to keep the Kumbh and took some rest. Thus during these 12 days he kept the Amrit Kumbh at four places - Haridwaar, Allahaabaad, Naasik, and Ujjain, near Gangaa River, Sangam, Godaavaree River and Kshipraa River respectively. Since he kept that Kumbh at these four places at a certain time, these places are famous as Kumbh places and at those times a Kumbh Melaa takes place to have a share of that Amrit. After the Devtaa and Daitya fight was lover Garud Jee brought the Amrit Kumbh to Vishnu.
So this was the beginning of Kumbh, and this is how the Kumbh Melaa is related to Saagar Manthan story.
The major event of the festival is the ritual bathing at the banks of the river in whichever town it is being held that is, Gangaa in Haridwaar, Godaavaree in Naasik, Kshipraa in Ujjain and Sangam (confluence of Gangaa, Yamunaa and mythical Saraswatee) in Prayaag (Allaahaabaad). Naasik has registered maximum visitor to 75 million. Other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men, women and the poor. In 2013 it is going to take place at Allahabad, at Sangam, Uttar Pradesh, India, from 14th January to 10th March.
Foreigners in India For Kumbh Melaa
The first written evidence of the Kumbh Melaa can be found in the accounts of Chinese traveler, Huan Tsang or Xuanzang (602-664 AD) who visited India in 629-645 BC, during the reign of King Harsh Vardhan. Several other foreigners have also gone to India on this occasion.
The first modern account of this fair is found by Mark Twain. He wrote after attending a Kumbh Melaa in 1895 - "It is wonderful, the power of faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint 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 cold whites."
Some singers and actresses from the USA have also witnessed it - Madonna, Julie, and . This year Catherine Zeta-Jones is also going to India on this occasion. Shilpa Shetty, a former Indian actress, also came to Allaahaabaad to take bath on this occasion.