Kumbh Mela 2010 at Haridwar, Uttarakhand


Etymologically 'Kumbha'  means 'pot' and 'Mela' means 'fair' that together form the Kumbh Mela.  It is a mass Hindu pilgrimage which is celebrated when the Jupiter enters Aquarius and the Sun enters Aries. This is the oldest and the largest religious gathering in the world that attracts millions of pilgrims from across the globe. Kumbh Mela is held in every twelve years, once at each of these four places—Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.

Origin of the Kumbh is very old which dates back to the creation of the universe. According to Hindu mythology and legends when all Gods and Goddesses became weak because of the curse then Brahma (the creator of the Universe) advised them to churn the Milky Ocean for Amrita (the nectar of immortality) which will immortalise them and help regain their lost power and glory. Brahma also suggested that in this course they need to take help from demons (Asuras). Thus in quest of immortality a temporary agreement was made between the Gods and demons on basis of sharing equal proportion of the obtained nectar.
The Samudramanthan (churning of ocean) began with the  Mandara Mountain as the churning rod and Vasuki the king of serpents as the rope. They churned the ocean for a 1,000 year, then appeared Dhanwantari, the divine healer with the Kumbh (Pitcher) containing nectar in his palms. To prevent the Amrita Kalasha (Pot of Nectar) being forcibly taken into possession by Asuras, the four gods Shani,  Brahaspati, Chandra and Surya took it into their custody and ensured its equal distribution between god and demon.

When Asuras forcibly tried to take it into their possession the four gods ran away with the Amrita Kalasha to hide it from the Asuras. As a result a fierce battle was fought between god and demons for the possession of Amrita pot. This battle was fought for twelve days and twelve nights which is equivalent to twelve human years.  It is said that during this battle god hid this Amrita Kalasha at fours places i.e. Nashik, Ujjain, Prayag and Haridwar. In order to commemorate this holy event of the Amrita Kalasha being put at four different places, Kumbh Mela is celebrated at four designated holy places of India.
The festival is religiously most important for the Hindus. At every Kumbh occasion millions of Hindus take part in the celebrations. According to the Hindu mythology it is believed that taking a dip in the holy river removes all past sins and evils from an individual's life. Due to this religious belief it is attended by millions of people from various parts of the world. There is a popular belief that bathing during Kumbh cleanses one's sins and prepares one for Moksha. Another belief associated with it is that during this period zodiacal positioning  of Sun, Moon and Jupiter casts positive healing effects to the holy rivers of these four places.

The Indian mythological Scriptures Brahma Purana and Vishnu Purana state that bathing during Kumbh is equal to millions of Ashvamedha rituals. But the first written evidence of the Kumbha Mela can be found in the accounts of Chinese traveller, Huan Tsang or Xuanzang (602 - 664 A.D.) who visited India in 629 -645 CE, during the reign of King Harshavardhana. According to his record during the Hindu month of Magha  people gathered on the banks of the Ganges at Allahabad to celebrate this mass pilgrimage for 75 days.

He also said that Kings along with scholars, ministers and courts-men used to gather on the Ganga banks to become a part of this celestial celebration. During this period King would distribute his enormous wealth to the poor and needy. During the mela religious theology is discussed, debated and discoursed by saints and hermits. Later on in the eight century the Adi Guru Shankarachraya, a prominent Indian saint popularized the Kumbha Mela among the common people.

Rituals of Kumbh

Kumbh Mela is the largest human gathering of faith in the world. This highly auspicious festivity attracts millions of devotees from different religious background from across the world. Devotees participate in this religious fair with great enthusiasm and faith. Har ki Pauri, the most sacred ghat in Haridwar remains crowded with devotees throughout the Mela. Several rituals are performed by the devotees, priests, saints and sadhus during the Kumbh Mela.
It is believed that a dip in the holy waters of Ganga, which according to Hindu astrologers turns into nectar during Kumbh, frees one of all sins and also liberates from the sufferings of birth and death. Also it is said that the water of Ganga gets positively charged due to the electromagnetic radiations of the Sun, Moon and Jupiter during the Kumbh Mela.

People also feed sadhus, saints and the poor during the Mela. Other activities encompass singing of devotional songs, debates and discussions on religion etc. From spiritual point of view the position of planets during Kumbh Mela is considered best for meditation and concentration.

Har Ki Pauri is the most famous ghat on the banks of the sacred river Ganga. The terms 'Har' means 'Lord Shiva', 'Ki', means 'of', and 'Paudi', means 'steps'. The legend goes that Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu visited the Brahmakund in Har Ki Pauri ghat during the Vedic age. The ghat is also known as Brahmakund Ghat and was built by King Vikramaditya in the 1st century BC in memory of his brother Bhartrihari.

Ganga aarti ceremony is performed here during the Kumbh Mela which is very uplifting. The priests holding huge fire bowls in their hands, the gongs in the temples ringing loudly creating melodious sound and devotees chanting with great devotion are a part of the aarti. After the aarti the devotees float earthen diyas decorated with flowers in the holy water, which is a sight to behold.

Bathing Dates for Ardh Kumbh

  1. 14 January 2010 (Thursday) - Makar Sankranti - First Snan

  1. 15 January 2010 (Friday) - Mauni Amavasya and Surya Grahan (Solar Eclipse) - Second Snan

  1. 20 January 2010 (Wednesday) - Vasant Panchami - Third Snan

  1. 30 January 2010 - (Saturday) Magh Purnima - Fourth Snan

  1. 12 to 13 February 2010 (Friday) - Mahashivratri - Pratham Shahi Snan - First Royal Bath

  1. 15 March 2010 (Monday)- Somvati Amavasya - Dvitya Shahi Snan - Royal Bath for six Akharas of Vaishnav and Udasi sects

  1. 24 March 2010 (Wednesday) - Ram Navami - Fifth Snan

  1. 30 March 2010 (Tuesday) - Chaitra Purnima Snan: Royal Bath for six Akharas of Vaishnav and Udasi sects

  1. 14 April 2010 (Wednesday) - Amavasya of Krishna Paksh (dark fortnight) of month of Baisakh (Vaisakha or Jyeshtha) - Pramukh Shahi Snan, MAIN ROYAL BATH for six Akharas of Vaishnav and Udasi sects

  1. 28 April 2010 (Wednesday) - Vaishakha (Shakh) Purnima - Snan

Bathing Ghats In Haridwar

Kumbh Mela is the largest religious fair in the world which attracts millions of devotees from across the globe. This time the Kumbh Mela is being celebrated in Haridwar, one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites of India. Hindus believe that a dip in the holy waters of river Ganga in Haridwar during the Kumbh Mela purifies one's soul and helps one attain Moksha (enlightenment).
The bathing ghats in Haridwar are:

Har Ki Pauri

It is the most famous ghat on the banks of the sacred river Ganga. The terms 'Har' means 'Lord Shiva', 'Ki', means 'of', and 'Paudi', means 'steps'. According to the legend Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu visited the Brahmakund in Har Ki Pauri ghat during the Vedic age. The ghat is also known as Brahmakund Ghat and was built by King Vikramaditya in the 1st century BC in memory of his brother Bhartrihari.

Ganga aarti ceremony is performed here every morning and evening which is very uplifting. The priests holding huge fire bowls in their hands, the gongs in the temples ringing loudly creating melodious sound and devotees chanting with great devotion are a part of the aarti. After the aarti the devotees float earthen diyas decorated with flowers in the holy water, which is a sight to behold.

According to Indian astrologers the waters of river Ganga at Har ki Pauri in Haridwar transforms into nectar during Kumbh Mela. Bathing at this ghat during the Mela purifies one's being.

Asthi Prawah Ghat

Located in the south direction of the main Ganga temple is the Asthi Prawah Ghat. It is the place where ashes of the dead are immersed in the holy water of Ganga. Hindus believe that Goddess Ganga showers her blessings in the form of Moksha on the departed souls.

Subhash Ghat

Located near Har Ki Pauri ghat, Subhash ghat is named after the freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. It also houses a statue of him. There is also a dispensary here which is run by The Sewa Samati, a voluntary organization.

Gau Ghat

Located in the south of Subash ghat is the Gau( gau means cow) ghat where people come for atonement for the sin of cow slaughter. In Hindu religion cow is worshiped and is considered as the fulfiller of desires. The killing of cow is considered as a sin in Hindu religion.

Role of Sadhu

Sadhu is an ascetic holy man who devotes himself to the goal of moksha or liberation so that soul can overcome the cycle of reincarnation. The Sadhu tradition in India has a long history which can be traced back to the Vedic Age. Such a Hindu ascetic or a monk renounces worldly pleasures in pursuit of higher values of life in order to attain enlightenment. Through strict and hard practice Sadhu detached themselves from  pleasures and pains of human life which makes them indifferent from world and transports them to the metaphysical world.

Etymologically Sadhu is a Sanskrit word which means a wise man who renounces the world and all worldly pleasures in quest of spirituality, which ultimately lead them to enlightenment. In order to achieve the zenith of human life they live in caves, temples, forests and hill top, practicing strict code and conduct.

Sadhus are followers of the Rishis and Sages who were regarded as the bearer of ancient Vedic values, principles and ethics. It is believed that these Rishis were the masters of metaphysics who even wrote the great Hindu epics. For example the Ramayana (legend of Lord Rama) by Sage Valmiki, the Mahabharta by Ved Vyas, the Bhagavad Gita (the Lord's Song) and many more.

The Rishis are those person who attain enlightenment through the way of knowledge. They are the preacher of  philosophies like Advaita (non-dualism), Visishtadvaita (Qualified Monism) and Dvaita (Dualism), Dialectical Materialism which provide deep insight to followers and help them to come out of the vicious circle of pain and sorrow, birth and death.
Sadhus belong to many different sects and orders. Most of these sects are moderate in their practices but some go to extremes while practicing their beliefs. Some of the known extreme sects of Sadhus are the Ramanandis, the Naga babas,  the Udasin,  the Gorakhnathis or Yogis and the Aghoris.

Naga Sadhus:

The Naga Babas or Naga Sadhus are one of the major drawcards of the Kumbh Mela. Naga Sadhus are followers of the Shiva sect. The distinguishable features of this sect of sadhus include long knotted hair and naked body smeared with ashes. Naga Sadhus are categorised into Akharas, just like regiments in an army. They hold sticks, spears, swords and trident as a symbol of their identity. Some of the prominent Naga Akharas are Sanyasi Akhadas/Akharas, Bajrangi Akharas/Akhadas and Nirmal Akharas/Akhadas which are further subdivided into numbers of Akharas.

Almost every regiment of Naga Sadhus participate in the rituals of Kumbh Mela. During their Kumbh Pilgrimage they perform various types of  Yogic Asanas, Sashtang and indulge in Dandthvad and Philosphical Discourses. Their nakedness does not emit their sexual desire, but on the contrary it reveals their strong discipline and command. Naga Baba in Kumbhmela perform various Asanas and are known for their spiritual, positive and intellectual power which attracts scores of people to their camps.

On a visit to the Naga Sadhus Camp one can see them indulge in smoking 'chilum' (a marijuana based smoking pipe) and consuming bhang. These narcotic consumptions are a part of their rituals which help them attain cognitive calmness.
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