One of India’s biggest cultural gatherings is underway in India now. Yes, I am talking of the Purna Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj or Allahabad. The history of this tradition dates back to pre-historic times. Folklores and ancient scriptures indicate the origins of this mega festival lies in the legend about the search of the nectar for immortality. This search eventually ended in the war between the Gods and demons and Lord Shiva supposedly drank the poison that first came out from the churning of the sea during this search.
The word Kumbh essentially refers to a round vessel and mela stands for a mass gathering or celebration. Technically it is celebrated four times over the course of 12 years held by rotation in four locations. Considered the holiest of Holy Grails of Hinduism, Allahabad, Nasik, Ujjain and Haridwar host these Kumbhs. This is because the holy nectar dropped in these four locales as Lord Vishnu, the creator was carrying it back to heaven. The Ardha Kumbh is held every six years at Haridwar and Allahabad and the Purna Kumbh every 12 years in Allahabad. The Maha Kumbh held in Allahabad is the holiest of them all and comes once in 144 years, after completion of 12 Purna Kumbhs. Allahabad is considered to be the confluence of three of the holiest rivers of India, Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.
People who gather at the Kumbh for the holy dip come from across various walks of life and as they go into the river they are all unified by the single important force of belief that this will pave the way for their ultimate salvation or Moksha. Caste, creed, religion, social position or economic superiority cease to matter. Every single devotee come together singing the rhythm of goodness, positive karma and fellow feeling.
But Kumbha also serves to highlight the scientific and technical excellence of the Vedic scholars in ascertaining celestial positioning and rightly grasping their significance in our daily life. Have you ever wondered why is this festival held only once in 12 years? The Kumbh is held at a time when the Sun and the Jupiter are in a specific zodiac sign. While the sun takes slightly more than a year to travel through the 12 zodiac signs one by one, the Jupiter takes about 12 earth years to achieve the same. Thus you get the math dictating the 12 year gap.
The sun’s rays through the end of the winter across the Indian subcontinent till the beginning of summer or around the time of Holi is supposed to be most beneficial. It aids in the maximum production of Vitamin D in the body and offers natural immunity. It is believed that during the days of holy dip in the Kumbh, the water turns into nectar. Well, even if you fail to believe that, it is true that the natural sunlight, the nip in the air, the morning dew and whole exercise does your body more good than you can imagine.
The Kumbhs traditionally have attracted close to 100 million people from across the world. In a world where people are struggling to look for inner peace and waging wars against each other, what better way to propagate the message of peace and brotherhood. Immortality, I am not sure. But as a mortal, this is perhaps the most effective way to take forward the message of world peace.