New Delhi, Jan 19: The Kumbh Mela is a gigantic and unbelievably functioning event, and the faith drives it. Consider these numbers in Allahabad, circa 2013: A huge city with 14 sectors erected for lakhs of people, for their needs electricity cables of 770 km are laid with 22000 street lights, a pipeline of 550 km length supplies 80,000 kiloliters of water every day and over 12,000 police personnel deployed to guard the pilgrims. And, Allahabad town of 133 lakh population saw 80 lakh faithfuls take bath on Jan 14. The city awaits nearly 300 lakh people to take bath on Mouni Amavasya (Feb 10).
The West is awestruck by the scale of Kumbh Mela, its gathering, and so is the rest of India, unable to even manage garbage disposal.
For the people of faith, kumbh is not just pitcher. Kumbh is the human body, it is the confluence of all our cultures and the river Ganga is the symbol of flow of humanity.
The kumbh event is not a festival or mela but confluence of knowledge, asceticism and devotion. Religious atmosphere is seen everywhere during the kumbh like yagya or homa, mantras are chanted, elucidation, dances based on mythological epics, prayers, preachings and discourses of saints.
Date and place based on astronomy
In the event of Sun in Capricorn and entrance of Jupiter in Taurus, kumbh mela is held at Prayag. In the event of entrance of Jupiter in Leo, kumbh mela is held at Nashik on the bank of river Godavari and in the event of entry of Jupiter in Leo and entry of Sun in Aries, kumbh is held at Ujjain.
When Jupiter, Sun and Moon enters in Cancer on lunar conjunction (Amavasya - last day of the dark half of a month), kumbh is held on the banks of river Godavari.
When Jupiter enters in Libra and Sun & Moon remain together on Kartik Amavasya (8th month of Hindu year), then also Moksha Dayak (free from all bonds) kumbh mela is held at Ujjain.
Purna and ardha kumbh
A purna kumbh is held every 12 years and ardha kumbh is every six years. Kumbh festival starts from Haridwar in the interval of every 3 years. After Haridwar, it is celebrated at Prayag, Nashik and Ujjain. Kumbh festival at Prayag is celebrated after 3 years of kumbh at Haridwar and there is a difference of 3 years between the kumbh melas at Prayag and Nashik but the kumbh mela at Nashik and Ujjain is celebrated in the same year. Sometimes, Kumbh Festival at Nashik is celebrated before Ujjain.
Why these towns?
These towns are venues for kumbh mela because of mythology. After the samudra manthan (ocean churning) for a pot of amrit (nector of immortality), there was a fight between gods and demons.
Lord Vishnu, disguising himself as an enchantress (Mohini), seized the nectar from the demons. Lord Vishnu passed the nectar 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 at Allahabad, Nashik, Haridwar and Ujjain.
Another story says that during the fight for the pot of nectar, it was kept on the ground at Allahabad (Prayag), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.
And the kumbh mela at these places signifies immortality of soul and prayer to the gods. Devotees believe that by bathing in the Ganga zone one is freed from their past sins (karma) and thus one becomes eligible for liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
This holy event with such tremendous faith can be found in ancient texts of the world. Famous traveler Huen Tsang of China was the first to mention kumbh mela in his diary. It mentions the celebration of 75 days of Hindu month of Magha (January-February), which witnessed half a million devotee including sadhus, common man, the rich and the kings.
Important dates of kumbh in 2013:
Makar Sankranti on Jan 14 with 80 lakh taking bath
Pausha Poornima (full moon day) on 27-1-2013
Shattila Ekadashi on 06-02-2013
Mouni Amavasya (new moon day) on 10-02-2013
Kumbha Sankranti on 12-02-2013
Vasant Panchami on 15-02-2013 (few almanacs say it if on Feb 14)
Ratha Saptami on 17-02-2013
Bhishma Ashtami on 18-02-2013
Jaya Ekadashi on 21-02-2013
Magha Poornima (full moon day) on 25-02-2013
Mahashivaratri on 10-03-2013
UP Tourism offers rooms and Swiss tents starting from a tariff of Rs 500 to Rs 12,000 per day. A list of travel agents and additional information can be had from the official website of the mela.