History and Importance of Kumbh Mela
‘Kumbh Mela’ held at Prayagraj, a place of pilgrimage on the holy confluence of Rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati !
The religious fair held at Prayagraj every 12 years means ‘Kumbh- Mela’. The history of tradition of holding ‘Kumbh Mela’ is older than culture of Sindhu valley. There is a holy confluence of 3 Rivers viz. Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati at Prayagraj, a place of pilgrimage which is also known as ‘Triveni Sangam’. From Vedic times, ‘Triveni Sangam’ is known as a holy place of Hindus. Every year, in the Hindu month of ‘Magha’, a fair is held at this holy ‘Triveni Sangam’ which is known as ‘Magh-Mela’ and during every 12th year, ‘Kumbh Mela’ and every 6th year, ‘Ardh Kumbh Mela’ is held here. This Kumbh-Parva (Period)’ is celebrated in every 12th year at Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Nashik. ‘Kumbh Mela’ is known all over the world.
One can read importance of places of pilgrimage which offer various benefits even in ‘Vedas’
Devotees get benefit of four main ‘Parvas (Period)’ at this ‘Kumbh Mela’ of Prayagraj
1. Kumbh Mela : Tradition followed for thousands of years
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.
A. 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.
B. In 2382 BC, Vishwamitra (second) stated importance of having holy bath on ‘Magh Pournima’.
C. In 1302 BC, Maharshi Jyotish impressed upon people the importance of holy bath on ‘Magh Pournima’.
D. 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.
2. Jagatguru Adi Shankaracharya gave Vedic form to ‘Kumbh Mela’
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.
3. Definition of the word ‘Kumbh’
‘Kumbh’ means a pot which is a symbol of purity/ sacredness and well-being : The literal meaning of ‘Kumbh’ is a ‘kalash (pot)’. Since ‘kalash’ is a symbol of purity and well-being, it is also called ‘Mangal kalash’. In Astrology, the word ‘Kumbh’ is used for a zodiac sign. In the context of ‘Kumbh-parva’, astrological meaning is also accepted.
4. Religious and spiritual importance of ‘Kumbh’
‘Kumbh’ is an abode of Sea, Earth and all 4 ‘Vedas’ : Sages, Saints and Brahmins have honored ‘Kumbh’ as a symbol of greatness of Deities, natural wealth, materialistic prosperity, grace of Sree and Lakshmi and a storage of knowledge and science. As per the science, ‘Kumbh’ is an abode of Deities. In the opening of ‘Kumbha’, there is abode of Bhagavan Sri Vishnu; in its neck, abode of Sri Mahadev and at its base, there is abode of Sri Brahmadev. It is also stated that in the centre of ‘Kumbh’, there is abode of all Deities, all Seas, Mountains, Earth and 4 ‘Vedas’; therefore, ‘Kumbh’ has religious and spiritual importance.
5. Importance of ‘Kumbh’ as per the ‘Puranas’
War was fought by ‘Devas (Gods)’ and ‘Asuras (Demons)’ at the time of ‘Samudra-manthan’ for obtaining the ‘kalash’ of nectar : There is history of war between ‘Devas’ and ‘Asuras’ hidden in the story related to ‘Kumbh’ in ‘Puranas’. 14 precious stones/ things were obtained during ‘Samudra-manthan (churning of the Sea)’ in which was included this ‘kalash (Kumbh)’ with nectar. War was fought between them to obtain this ‘Kumbh’. During ‘Kumbh-parva’, this ‘Kumbh’ is also remembered.
6. One can read importance of places of pilgrimage which offer various benefits even in ‘Vedas’
a. One can attain heaven by taking holy bath at Prayag and making offerings. – Many devotees offer different services at places of pilgrimage and perform sacred fires to attain ‘Swarg (heaven)’.
b. A person can face most difficult hardships with ease by staying at places of pilgrimage.
c. When the holy water (teertha) at such places is drunk with utmost faith and devotion, it helps to absolve one from his sins.
d. By having holy bath and undertaking meditation, one gets the energy emitted by evolved Sages residing in Himalayas which helps at all levels. One also gets rid of many ailments and hardships. Many people have experienced that they acquired mental peace at these places.
7. Devotees get benefit of four main ‘Parvas (Period)’ at this ‘Kumbh Mela’ of Prayagraj
There are 4 main ‘Parvas’ viz. ‘Makar-Sankrant’, ‘Amavasya (new moon day)’, ‘Vasant-Panchami’ and Maghi Pournima. Bath taken on these days has special significance.