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KUMBH MELA HISTORY

The Sinhastha Kumbhamela

Why every 12 years ?

    Amrut had to be saved from Danavas. So Gods had to hide it at different places - Swargalok, Mrutyulok and Patallok. Gods were on Mrutyulok (earth) for twelve days. Gods twelve days are equal to 12 years for Mrutyulok . Thus Gods were on earth for 12 years with Amrut. Hence every 12 years Kumbha Mela is celebrated at the four places, where a few drops of Amrut had fallen.

Where Kumbhmela is celebrated and why ?

    In Kruta Yuga, Durwas Rishi saw Indra - the King of Gods - sitting on elephant Airawat. Durwas was pleased to see Indra and presented him a chain. However Indra did not accept the present. It fell down and was trodden by elephant Airawat. Durwas Rishi got upset due to this and cursed Indra. As an effect of the curse, all Gods lost their powers and had to often lose a battle against Danavas (Demons). So all Gods including Brahmadeva surrendered themselves to God Vishnu to get back their power. Vishnu suggested them to approach Danavas and persuade them to perform Samudra Manthana (churning of the sea). He said Samudra Manthana will bring out Amruta, which will bring back your power and you will not be defeated by Danavas. To extract this from the depths of the ocean, the demons were motivated to churn the ocean along with the Gods. Mighty mountain Mandarachal was used as churn staff, formidable serpent king Vasuki became the string to move the churn, Lord Vishnu in the guise of koorm (tortoise) gave support from the bottom and Lord Brahma (the creator of Universe) guided the churning from top. With the churning, fourteen Ratnas (virtuous jewels) emerged from the ocean.
    These were Poison, Flying Horse, Magic Moon, Sky chariot, Vibrant Lyre, Rambha (the siren), Lakshmi (the paragaon of beauty and the provider of all riches), Vishwakarma (the divine architect), Dhanvantari (the divine healer), Gajaraj/Airawat (the divine elephant), Kaustubh Mani , the divine conch shell, Varuni (the enchantress) and the coveted kumbh (pitcher) of Amrit (divine nectar).
Ratnas emerged from the ocean during Samudramanthan Ratnas emerged from the ocean during Samudramanthan
Lord Vishnu, disguising himself as an enchantress (Mohini), seized the nectar from the demons.
Mohini Avtaar by Lord Vishnu Winged mount - Garuda
    While fleeing from the evil ones, Lord Vishnu passed the nectar on to his winged mount, Garuda. The demons finally caught up with Garuda and in the ensuing struggle, a few drops of the precious nectar fell on Allahabad, Nashik, Haridwar and Ujjain. Since then, the Kumbh Mela has been held in all these places, every 12 years.

Why Godavari river is Important ?

    Another story is that once all the Teerthas went to Adinath Bhagwan Shankara . Following Bhagwan Shankara's order they had been to Mrutyuloka (earth) to save sinners on earth. Teerthas absolved the sinners on the earth, but were themselves saturated with other's sins. They requested Bhagwan Shankara to free themselves from sins. Shankara asked them to go and live in solitude for one year at the bank of river Godavari. Shankara promised the Teerthas that he himself, with all other Gods will also stay with them. After taking bath in the sacred water of Godavari, they will be free from the sins. Hence during the Kumbha Mela a dip in Godavari river has attained a great importance.

Why Gods and Rishis are important at Kumbhmela ?

    In Shiva Purana there is a story explaining the importance of Sinhastha Kumbha Mela. Gautama Rishi got salvation of his cow-killing sin from Lord Shankara after a long penance. Then the river Ganges descended down on the earth. After some time she wanted to go back to her home place. However the Rishis and Gods gathered there and requested her to stay back on the earth for the prosperity of the earth. She agreed to stay back only after taking a promise from Lord Shankara that all the Rishis present there and all Gods will stay with her. Then only she will stay back. Gods and Rishis promised her that during the period, when Jupiter and Sun will be in the zodiac sign Leo (Simha Rashi), they will all stay on the earth.
    The Nashik Kumbh Mela is a mammoth affair with over three and a half million people attending it. Thousands of Sadhus and holy men and millions of pilgrims immerse themselves in the holy Ramkund and Kushavarta reservoirs. During the Kumbha Mela, Nashik City and Trimbakeshwar are in a fantastic festive mood. The festive and religious mood makes people get away from their daily chores and experience the spiritual ecstasy.

The Origin Mela

    India is predominantly a land of religion. With a total of 330 million gods, goddesses and demigods being mentioned in the sacred Hindu scriptures it is natural that religion remains the cornerstone of the Hindu religion. Every year, periodical or annual fairs are held on river banks, lake-shores, beaches and sacred places by Hindus to commemorate important events or in honour of Gods or Goddesses. In common Hindu parlance, fairs are known as 'Mela's. These 'Mela"s find a mention in the great Hindu epics and sacred Sanskrit texts (Puranas) and are a prominent feature of Hinduism from time immemorial.
    The most important of these melas is the Kumbh Mela. A mass pilgrimage for the Hindu community of India, the Kumbh Mela or Kumbh fair is rumored to be one of the largest congregation of sages, yogis, ascetics, mendicants, men, women and children on the planet. It occurs four times every twelve years and is organised in rotation among four places: Allahabad (Prayag), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.
     Every twelve-year cycle includes one Purna Kumbh Mela (Great Kumbh Mela) at Prayag. Around 60 million people is said to attend the purn kumbh mela making it the largest gathering in the world.Indeed, even the Maha-Kumbh is related to the spiritual Lord, Sri Vishnu, just as all rituals, rites, sacrifices, injunctions of the Vedas are related to Him directly or indirectly. Prayag is the King of all holy places because the three more sacred rivers viz. Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati have their confluence here. All three are related to Sri Krishna.

Origin of Kumbh Mela

Presently, "Kumbh Mela" is the biggest religious fair in the world. It is difficult to say when it exactly started. Ascetics gather here for taking bath on the new moon day of "Magh" month. In Holy Scriptures also there is a mention of "Kumbh Mela". In "Narada-Puranas", "Kumbha-Mela" has been referred to be very good. The exact origin of the Kumbh Mela is very hard to pinpoint. The fair is a primitive one and the reason it is held can be traced back to the ancient episode of 'Sagar Manthan' or 'Churning of the Ocean' that is described in the ancient Vedic text of “Shrimad bhagvatam” The Samudra Manthan episode (Churning of the ocean of milk), is mentioned in the Bhagavatam Purana, Vishnu purana the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
  •     According to few scholars, this fair started in 3464 BC i.e. it is a tradition existing 1000 years prior to Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro culture.
  •     In 2382 BC, Vishwamitra (second) stated importance of having holy bath on "MaghPornima"
  •     In 1302 BC, Maharshi Jyotish impressed upon people the importance of holy bath on "Magh Pournima".
  •     Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang has also described "Kumbh- Mela" in his book. In his book, there is description of his journey taken in 629 BC as "Bharatyatra" wherein there is a mention of Hindus fair at Prayag in the kingdom of Emperor Harshvardhan.

Vedic form to 'Kumbh Mela' by Jagatguru Adi Shankaracharya:

Jagatguru Adi Shankaracharya first started celebration of Hindus" religious festivals as Indian festivals motivating Saints and religious leaders from different sects and following different religions to take part in the same. With his inspiration, the Saints and religious leaders from various parts of the country and different religions and Sects started taking part. By giving Vedic form to it, Adi Shankaracharya conferred more prestige to it and hence it got more recognition and participation of Saints and religious leaders in "Kumbh Mela" increased. In the year 1515, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had come here from Bengal. In this fair, followers of Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism also take part. Nowadays, even foreign nationals join this fair with lot of enthusiasm.
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