Many people are not familiar with Kumbh Mela or Kumbh Fair, and yet it is the biggest religious celebration on earth. Depending on the positions of Jupiter, the Sun and the Moon according to Indian astrological calendar, Hindus travel to four sacred places in India, along the holy rivers to bathe and cleanse themselves of sin. With an attendance of a record-breaking 100 million people in 2013 Kumbh Mela held in Allahabad over a two-month period, the triennial pilgrimage requires that the communities hosting the gatherings create functioning temporary structures to transport, house and feed an enormous crowd. Discover some interesting facts about Kumbh Mela and the story behind this ancient river-side festival.
The upcoming Kumbh Mela 2019 will be held in the city of Allahabad, starting 15th January to 4th March.
Fact 1. The Kumbh Mela is celebrated every three years and is held in four different locations, turn by turn in Haridwar (near river Ganga), Prayag (near Triveni Sangam: convergence of Yamuna, Ganga, and Saraswati), Ujjain (near river Shipra), and Nasik (near river Godavari). The fair returns to each location after a span of 12 years.
Fact 2. ‘Kumbh’ literally means nectar. The story behind the fair goes back to the time when the gods (devas) used to reside on earth. Sage Durvasa’s curse had weakened the gods, and the asuras (demons) caused havoc in the world.
Fact 3. Lord Brahma advised the gods to churn out the nectar of immortality with the help of the asuras. When the Demons came to learn of the Gods plan to not share the nectar with them, they chased them for 12 days. During the chase, some of the nectar fell at the four locations mentioned at the fact no. 1.
Fact 4. The Kumbh Mela is held on the dates when the waters of these sacred rivers are believed to turn into nectar. The exact dates are calculated according to a combination of zodiac positions of Jupiter, the Sun and the Moon in Hindu astrological calendar.
Fact 5. Hindus believe that those who bathe in the sacred waters during the Kumbh Mela are eternally blessed by the divine. All their sins are washed away by the holy water and they come one step closer to salvation.
Fact 6. The 58-day festival is frequented by millions of people. The Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, in 2013, attracted a record-breaking crowd of approximately 100 million people!
Fact 7. Several holy men or sadhus from different Hindu sects attend the fair, such as the famed Nagas (who do not wear any clothes, and who have renounced all things material), Kalpwasis (who bathe three times a day) and Urdhawavahurs (who believe in putting the body through many austerities).
Fact 8. The Kumbh festival is at least 2000 years old! The first written evidence of the fair can be found in the accounts of the Chinese traveller Hsuan Tsang, who visited India during 629 – 645 CE.
Fact 9. Kumbh creates approximately 650,000 jobs and was estimated to earn approximately 1.7 billion USD in 2013!
Fact 10. For the 2013 fair, officials set up 14 temporary hospitals, staffed with 243 doctors, more than 40,000 toilets, and stationed 50,000 police officials to maintain order.
Fact 11. The mass event has been a subject of study for many prestigious institutes of international repute including Harvard University who visited in 2013 to research the temporary pilgrim city. Also, different foreign media such as National Geographic, BBC have documented the event.
While it is a festival of faith for Hindus across the globe, a lot of many foreigners are known to attend Kumbh to be soaked in the spirituality & have a culturally rich experience. There are great photo opportunities – documenting the sacred rituals performed by the various sadhus and several holy men that belong to different sects of Hinduism.
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