Kumbh Mela 2016: Legends and Significance of the largest Hindu pilgrimage
The Kumbh Mela is one of the pious, sacred and auspicious festivals celebrated in India. It is held at four places namely, Nasik, Haridwar, Ujjain and Allahabad. In 2016, in the month of Chaitra, the Kumbh Mela is being held in Ujjain at the banks of pious river Shipra. It will start on 22nd April 2016.
Why did Kumbh Mela begin?
As per legends in the Hindu Puranas, Kumbh Mela is celebrated to honor or commemorate the legendary Samudra Manthan. The story of Samudra Manthan appears in the Bhagavata Purana, the Vishnu Purana and even in the epic, Mahabharata.
The Legend behind the Kumbh Mela
According to the Purana, once Lord Indra who was the king of the gods, rode on his elephant Airavata. When Sage Durvasa came across them, he honored Lord Indra with a special garland. While Lord Indra accepted the garland, he placed it on his elephant’s trunk to prove he did not have an ego. But the elephant knew better as Indra had no control over his ego. The elephant threw the garland onto the ground. When Sage Durvasa witnessed this, he was enraged as the garland was a dwelling of Sri or fortune and should have been treated as a Prasad. Durvasa then cursed Indra that all devtas, as well as he, would lose all his powers.
Lord Vishnu to the rescue
True to the curse, in due time all the Devas inclusing Indra lost his power and the Devas were defeated by the Asuras or the demons led by King Bali. Now King Bali gained control of the universe as the Devas sought help from Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu asked the Devas to meet peacefully with the asuras and that they should form an alliance to churn the great ocean to gain the nectar or amrit of immortality. However, Lord Vishnu would ensure only the Devas got hold of the amrit.
Samudra Manthan - what ensued...
The Samudra Manthan or the churning of the Ocean of Milk was a difficult as well as an elaborate process. To get started, Mount Mandara or the Mandar Parvat as it is known was used as a churning rod and Vasuki, the king of serpents, who resides on Lord Shiva’s neck, became the rope for the purpose. On Lord Vishnu’s advice, the Asura held Vasuki’s head and the Devas held its tail. This ensured the demons were poisoned by Vasuki’s venomous fumes. However, both sides worked hard on churning the ocean of the milk. Even Lord Vishnu helped as once the mountain was placed in the sea, it began to sink and therefore, Lord Vishnu took form of a Kurma and supported the mountain on his back.
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Halahala - the deadliest poison
The churning of the ocean caused many things to be released from the ocean of milk. One was Halahala – the deadliest poison which would destroy the universe. As per folklore, this poison escaped from Vasuki, Lord Shiva’s snake. Lord Shiva appeared and swallowed the poison to save mankind, the devas, and the asuras. Because of the deadly poison, his throat turned blue and this is why is he known as Neelkantha.
But how did Samudra Manthan lead to Kumbh Mela’s origin?
It is believed that when Dhanvantari, the heavenly physician appeared with the amrit and the Garuda flew away with it due to the ensuing fight between the Devas and Asuras, four drops of the nectar fell on four different places. The four places where the nectar fell were Prayag, i.e. Allahabad, Trybamk, i.e. Nashik, Haridwar, and Ujjain.
Attaining moksha at Kumbh Mela
Therefore, the Kumbh Mela which is one of world’s largest spiritual and religious exodus takes place every 12 years at either of these locations. People believe that after bathing at the holy waters here they can attain moksha or nirvana.
How is the location of the Kumbh Mela decided?
The decision to host the Kumbh Mela at one of the four sacred locations is based on the position of the Sun and the planet Jupiter in different zodiac signs. Poorna Kumbh, i.e. complete Kumbh Mela is held at Ujjain when the Jupiter and the Sun are in the Scorpio zodiac sign, i.e. the Vrischik Rashi.
The Kumbh Mela at Ujjain 2016
Located at the banks of river Shipra, Ujjain is in the western part of Madhya Pradesh and is one of the most sacred pilgrim places in India. There are many famous temples here such as the Mahalakelshwar Temple, Vikram Kirti Temples, Bade Ganeshji ka Mandir etc. During the occasion of Kumbh, lakhs and lakhs of devotees bathe in the river Shipra to seek salvation from their sins and liberation from the vicious cycle of birth-death-rebirth.
The commemoration of the Kumbh is known as the Simhasta Kumbh Mela. This ritual is very unique in nature as it combines divinity as well as spiritual purity. It is a very peaceful as well as a fortunate experience for people who witness this ritual.
The Shahi Snan at the Kumbh Mela
The main attraction of the Kumbh Mela is the Shahi Snan or royal bath which is conducted on specific dates each year. It is believed that participating in this ritual, i.e. taking a dip in the holy waters on these dates helps wash away sins of this birth as well as the previous birth.
Shahi Snan Dates for Kumbh Mela Ujjain 2016
Date (2016) Day Event
22 April Friday Purnima First Shahi Snaan (Royal Holy Dip)
03 May Tuesday Vratparv Vauthini Ekadashi
06 May Friday Vaishakh Krishna Amavasya (First Pramukh Snan)
09 May Monday Shukla/Akshey Tritya (Second Pramukh Snan)
11 May Wednesday Shukla Panchami
15 May Sunday Vrishabh Sankranti
17 May Tuesday Ekadashi & Pradosh Snan
19 May Thursday Pradosh
20 May Friday Nursingh Jayanti
21 May Saturday Purnima Main Shahi Snan