More than 120 million devotees are expected to visit Allahabad err, Prayagraj for the Hindu grandeur that is Kumbh Mela this year. Held every 3 years, switching between four different locations (Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik), the Kumbh Mela returns back to one location only after 12 years.
The 2013 Kumbh Mela was recorded to have the largest gathering ever in human history, totaling 100 million footprints. This year, it’s going to be an even bigger affair.
In recent times, Kumbh Mela has managed to garner massive mainstream attention from across the world. However, behind all the hype and glam and economic-extravaganza, the history of this human-gathering is rich and fascinating.
(Fun Fact: 2013 Kumbh Mela generated Rs 12,000 crore in revenue.)
The legends say, back in the days, Durvasa Muni cursed the demigods. This led to loss in power and strength for the demigods. To regain their previous state, they approached Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, who advised them to visit Lord Vishnu.
(Courtesy: Tour My India)
Lord Vishnu said, in order to regain their power, they would need nectar of immortality or Amrit, which needs to be churned from Ksheera Sagar or ocean of milk. However, the demigods were too tired and weak to churn this nectar. So, they made a pact with the asuras or demons. They mutually agreed to work on the task together; and that they would share the nectar equally.
It is believed that after working together for 1000 years, Dhanwantari emerged with the Kumbh of nectar. Many played critical role in churning Ksheera Sagar, including Meru mountain and Vasuki, as well as Lord Vishnu.
However, when Dhanwantari brought the Kalash, the demigods became fearful of the ill-intentions of the demons; they also didn’t want asuras to become immortal. So, they asked Indra’s son Jayant to go and seize the Kalash from Dhanwantari.
Upon learning about this betrayal on the agreement, the demons chased the demigods. And they fought them over the course of 12 days. At the time, one day was equal to our now one year; so, in today’s term, they actually fought for 12 years.
(Courtesy: Next Adventure)
When fighting, a few drops of nectar got spilled in four different places: Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik. This is why Kumbh Mela is held in these four places, and the event returns to one location only in 12 years. Today, these four spots are known to have mystical power.
And this is why every three years, millions of devotees gather in one location to perform rituals and ceremonies. They take a holy bath – in banks of river Godavari, Kshipra, Ganges, and the Sangam of Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati – to wash away all their sins and get a step closer to salvation.
That’s the story behind Kumbh Mela. That’s why we have this gathering with so much of devout and hype. Fascinating, is it not?