The Holy Festival
The holy festival of Kumbh is the most sacred celebration for Hindus. The festival falls every 3 years and is celebrated in 4 different cities, viz., Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. According to popular belief, Kumbh mela has the powers to the wash away all the sins of a person and free him from the cycle of birth-rebirth, of those who participate in them with full devotion. The festival is held at the banks of Ganga in Haridwar, as Haridwar is the place where Ganga enters plains, from hilly region.
The mythology says that during the times when earth was created, the Gods were under a curse that made them weak. Brahma, the creator of universe, guided them to churn the ocean, where they can find Amrit, a divine nectar, which can make them powerful and almighty. Gods agreed to it, but found it very difficult to do it alone, as churning an ocean was no child's play. They asked demons to help them, sharing half nectar with them. The demons agreed to it, listening to the offer. Mandara mountain was used as the mixing rod and Vasuki, the heavenly serpent, offered his body as the rope to move the mountain. The churning process finally started and continued for 1000 years. The mountain Mandara, in the middle of procession, began to sink. Seeing this, Vishnu took the shape of a tortoise and sat under the mountain, providing it support.
After 1000 years, many mythological things came out of the ocean, which included Laksmi the Goddess of Prosperity and Wealth, Sura the Goddess of Wine, Chandra, or the moon, Apsaras, the celestial nymphs, Kaustabha, the precious gem of Vishnu, Uchchaishravas, the divine horse, Parijata, the wishing coral tree, Kamdhenu, the wish-fulfilling Divine Cow, Airavata, the four-tusked white elephant, Panchajanya, or the conch, Sharanga, the invincible bow, and Dhanvantri, Nimi and Bharadwaj - the physicians and surgeons.
Amrit, as soon as came out with Dhanwantari, was siezed by Gods, and they ran away. Demons felt cheated by gods,and ran after them. A battle between gods and demons took place and continued for 12 days and nights. In an endeavor to keep the nectar from falling into the hands of the demons, the demigods hid it in four places on the earth, Prayag (Allahabad), Hardwar, Ujjain, and Nasik. At each of the hiding places, a drop of immortal nectar spilled from the pot and landed on the earth. These four places are since believed to have acquired mystical power. The next Kumbh Mela in Haridwar is due in 2010 AD.
The Religious Importance
The festival is religiously most important for the Hindus. At every Kumbh occassion, millions of Hindus take part in the celebrations. During 2003 Kumbh at Haridwar, more than 10 millions devoteed gathered at the site. Saints, priests, and yogis from all corners of India, gathered to participate in Kumbh. Haridwar is considered very holy, due to the fact that Ganga enter plains from mountains here itself.
The festival is visited by the most amazing saints from all across India. The Naga Sadhus are one such, who never any cloth and are smeared in ash. They have long matted hairs and are not at all affected by the extremes of heat and cold. Then there are the Urdhwavahurs, who believe in putting the body through severe austerities. There are the Parivajakas, who have taken a vow of silence and go about tinkling little bells to get people out of their way. The Shirshasins stand all 24 hours and meditate for hours standing on their heads. Spending the entire month of Kumbh on the banks of Ganga, meditating, performing rituals and bathing thrice a day, are the Kalpvasis.
It is believed that bathing during Kumbh cures the bather of all sins and evils and grants the bather, salvation. It is also believed that at the time of Kumbh Yog, the water of Ganga is charged with positive healing effects and that water at the time of Kumbh is charged positively by enhanced electromagnetic radiations of the Sun, Moon and the Jupiter, the flux of which also varies in accordance to positions and the phases of the moon, and also by the + and - signs of the sun spots.
As per the astrologers, the Kumbh Fair ( Mela ) takes place when the Jupiter enters Aquarius and the Sun enters Aries. This planetary position is said to medicate the waters of Ganga at a particular spot called Har ki pauri on the banks of River Ganges in Haridwar, and turns it into nectar on these days, thereby attracting millions to purify their inner-self through holy bathing rituals. Spiritually, position of planets during the Kumbh Mela is good for concentration and meditation. Though all the Hindu festivals in Haridwar are celebrated with great vigour, Ardh Kumbh & Kumbh Mela are the ones which attracts majority of pilgrims.
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