The Maha Kumbh Mela 2001

Maha Kumbh Mela is considered to be the most auspicious religious event. The perfect polarization of various benevolent forces at a specific spot, due to the alignment of planets, constellations, and other celestial bodies, has an extraordinary effect on our planet. This energy is further intensified by the presence of thousands of saints and sages who come together during this cosmic event. This happens every twelve years and twelve of such Poorna Kumbha Melas, over a span of 144 years, leads to the Maha Kumbha Mela.

The first Maha Kumbh Mela of the millennium will take place during January-February 2001 for a month. This gala event has evoked a lot of enthusiasm and religious fervor among the devotees and excitement in the media. On this occasion one will get to witness the largest congregation of humanity in the world.

Symbolic Significance

Symbolically speaking, the forces of creation are collected in one vessel (kumbha) and a celebration (Mela) ensues. This is why the event is called ‘Kumbha Mela’. "Kumbha", meaning the pot, and "Mela", a sacred Hindu pilgrimage, attracts the world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims.
Millions of worshippers take a dip in the holy river Ganga at the confluence of the three rivers (sangam); the holy Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, in Allahabad. The month long Mela (festival) represents a time when the confluence of the three rivers is believed to turn into purifying nectar, allowing the devotees to cleanse themselves as they bathe.

The Kumbh fair takes place when the Jupiter enters the Aquarius and the sun enters the Aries. This planetary position is said to medicate the waters of the Ganga and turn it into nectar. Spiritually, the position of the planets during the Kumbh Mela is good for concentration and meditation.

Mythological Significance

The observance of Kumbha Mela dates back to the Vedic times, before the creation of the universe. There is a legend that speaks for the origin of the Kumbh Mela.

Thousands of years ago, perhaps in the Vedic period, gods and demons agreed to work together for obtaining ‘amrit’ (the nectar of immortality) from the churning of the Milky Ocean, and to share the things thus obtained, equally.
Nevertheless, as Dhanwantari, the divine healer, appeared with the "Kumbh" containing nectar in his palms, a great fight followed between the gods and the demons to wrest the pitcher. The demons ran away with the pot and were chased by the gods. There ensued a battle in the skies for the possession of the pot for twelve days and twelve nights (equivalent to twelve human years) between the gods and the demons. It is said that during the battle, drops of ‘amrit’ fell on to four places: Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. Thus, Kumbha Mela is observed at these four locations where the nectar fell.

Historically, the origin of the Kumbh Mela can be traced to the river festivals in which pots of grains were soaked in the waters of the holy rivers and put to seed with the rest of the grain, during the sowing time.

It has also been considered to be a pre-Aryan fertility ritual, for the Kumbh symbolizes the Mother Goddess and also the womb, the generative pot. Rivers, as givers of life and agents of fertility, became ‘tirthas’ (holy places) as they act as bridges between heaven and earth, the mortal humans and the eternal divine.
Records of the celebration of this festival go back to the 10th century, where it is mentioned in various Indian art forms and in the writings of the Arabian, French and English travelers. The Mela finds mention in the Vedas and also in Ramayana, written by Valmiki.

Holy Men

Kumbh Mela is the largest gathering of gurus, sadhus and holy men. They come from their ashrams, monasteries, caves and veritable palaces of marble, gold and glass. They come from India’s vast rural backyard, cities, clearings in dense forests and remote ice- bound heights of the Himalayas. Some come humbly with the meagre belongings of a holy man - the water pot, the fire tongs, a shoulder bag and a blanket. Some come with their retinue of disciples following the guru like a medieval army, armed with tridents, chains, spears and muskets. Then, there are the heads of large monastic orders that arrive to the fanfare of brass bands, and some, well-heeled international gurus come in limousines.

There are hundreds of sects and sub sects of Sadhus in the Hindu world. They can broadly be divided in two groups, the Vaishnavas, who are followers of Vishnu and the Shaiva, who are followers of Shiva. The most ferocious and exotic of the sadhus who come to the Mahakumbh Mela are the Nagas (the Naked Ones), the militant wing of the sect, the defenders of the faith. Seated by their ritual fires, covered in ash, matted hair flowing to the ground they accept obeisance and charity of the millions of pilgrims that flock to the festival.

Also, the "Jangams", with peacock feathered turbans are seen here. They are believed to be born out of Lord Shiva’s thigh.

The Jangams who hail from Haryana, Punjab and Himachal with a mixed language, colourfully dressed singing in praise of Lord Shiva and Parvati, are the last exponents of a long traditional culture.

Auspicious Bathing Dates

Ganga (the Ganges) has been a symbol of India’s age-old culture and civilisation, ever changing, ever flowing and yet ever the same. A sacred river believed by many to bring purity, wealth, fertility and wash away the sins of those who bathe in it.

Between January 09, 2001 and February 22, 2001 the auspicious bathing dates are- January 09, 2001 - Paush Purnima,the full moon in the Hindu month of Paush. This is the last full moon of winter. The sadhus are there and first few 100,000 pilgrims will have already arrived. More will come in buses, trains and on foot. Each day the population of Kumbhnagari (Kumbh City) will double. The fanfare will have started as the saints march in.

January 14, 2001 (Makar Sankranti)

According to Hindu astrology, on this day the Sun enters the constellation Capricorn. This day is celebrated all over India through various festivals and pilgrimages. This is the first of the big bathing days. Over two million people will already be there.

January 24, 2001( Mauni Amavasya)

This is ‘New Moon of the Saints’. For the holy men and women this is their bathing day and just to let everyone know that they take out gilded and naked processions. It is also a day when new members to various holy monastic orders receive their first initiation. More than five million people will bathe on this day.

January 29, 2001( Vasant Panchami)

This is the fifth day of the bright half of the lunar month and is the beginning of spring in North India. Traditionally people wear yellow on this day. It is a day when people pray for a good bumper harvest.

February 8, 2001( Magh Purnima)

This is the full moon in the month of Magha (January - February). Winter is a memory and the moon shines over the two holy rivers.

February 21, 2001( Mahashivratri)

This is the Great Night of Shiva, the Naked One, from whose locks the Ganga flows. He married Parvati, daughter of the Himalayas on this day. It is a night of bacchanalian revelries. Shiva has many followers, none more so than the naked Naga sadhus who live a life in imitation of him. By this time the crowds dwindle and only about two million remain!

Preparations

Though the Ganga’s erosion is posing a threat to Mahakumbh mela administration, the preparations for the event by various government departments are going on a war-footing.

The number of pilgrims visiting the Mahakumbh during the last two Mahakumbhs and one Ardh Kumbh has increased manifold. This time the Mela administration has estimated a crowd of 75 million during the millennium’s first Mahakumbh.

During Kumbh a township has come up on the river bank. The Uttar Pradesh government has made available 1,396 hectares of land. It is 20 per cent more than the previous Mahakumbhs. For the smooth movement of pilgrims from the city to the Jhusi and Arail sides, the Mela administration is constructing 13 pontoon bridges.

The allotment of land for akharas, saints, preachers, kalpwasis, essential services, shops and departments is under the supervision of General Administration.

Tent facility ranging from star to economy class is available on pre-reservation for those wanting to be in the hub of Kumbh Mela.

The Mela area is divided into many sectors and each Mela Sector (under an officer of the rank of Dy. S.P.), will manage traffic security, law and order and crime prevention of that sector. Sangam Area, Parade Area, Arail Area, Jhusi Area and Traffic and Control Room will have an Additional Superintendent as in-charge.

The movement of the crowd will be monitored on Closed Circuit Television Screens in the control room. Traffic Direction Towers are being set up to guide the rush of pilgrims. Management of pedestrian traffic will be done on the basis of inputs provided by the CCTV as well as formal and informal channels. Vehicular traffic will be accommodated in parking areas around the Mela area. Different parking places have been earmarked for different vehicles according to their speed and size. During the Mela period, a separate wing of River Police, equipped with motor boats and life saving equipments will be on duty to monitor traffic of pilgrims traveling by boats to the holy confluence of the two rivers.

For providing a secure and sterile ground for Kumbh Mela, help has been sought from the State Intelligence Agency. Latest security equipment will be put into service for detection and prevention of any untoward incidents in the Mela area. Each police station and sector will have a team trained in latest and hi-tech security measures.

Besides, a channel is ready to telecast the first Mahakumbh of the millennium live which is to be held next year. It is the first time when a TV channel will cover the event. The telecast will be made available on internet as well.The webcast will be available in more than 150 countries round -the- clock.

Jyotish Mahakumbh

On the occasion of the century’s first Mahakumbh at Allahabad, Jyotish Mahakumbh –2001 is being organized from 19 to 20 January 2001, in which more than two thousand astrologers and experts of Indian religion from India and abroad will participate.

The scholars will hold discussions on 20-21 subjects in this conference, which is being organized by the Institute of Ancient Learning. Astrological Studies and Research. The responsibilities for food and accommodation for the three-day conference will be borne by the organizers. Each session will begin with Ganga Poojan and Yagna.

Since time immemorial, the Kumbh Mela, the greatest of all the Indian fairs, has enamored people from all walks of life. Irrespective of all worldly barriers of caste, creed, region, the Kumbh Mela has wielded a mesmeric influence over the minds and the imagination of the ordinary Indian. The Mela brings alive the most spectacular form of India.