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Mahakumbh

2015-07-19 04:30:32, comments: 0

 

The holiness of India is best reflected through its pilgrimages, which can be classified as Jal Teerth (water pilgrimage) & Mandir Tirth (temple pilgrimage). Kumbh festival is celebrated as a Jal Tirth. Held at Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain, and Nasik, it is India’s most famous bathing festival. These places are also an invaluable heritage of Indian culture and history, besides the popularity gained through the festivals. The Kumbh festival is held at the same venue at an interval of 12 years on a cyclical basis and an Ardh-kumbh (Half kumbh) is held in between 2 Mahakumbhs. Besides pilgrims, saints, and tourists, a large number of devotees and common people from India as well as overseas are known to take part in these celebrations. Thus, it can be said that the 3 streams of gyan (knowledge), bhakti (devotion), and karma (deeds) flow at the concerned venue during the period of Kumbh, which according to the Indian spiritualistic tradition is said to be the path to salvation. Hence, a Kumbh bath is also known as the Moksh-daayi (giver of salvation).

 The word Kumbh means a pot that is symbolic of the pot of nectar obtained after the churning of the ocean. It is believed to be a source of immortality and the Kumbh festival, therefore, is a symbol of immortality. The Kumbh brings about radiance and enlightenment in an individual’s wisdom through knowledge from the teachings of saints, in the mind through devotion to God, in the body through the auspicious bath, and in behaviour through control over the senses.

 Kumbh festival is marked by the gathering and participation of saints and followers of various Hindu sects. They offer religious discourses and lectures and promote their respective sects. These factions are divided into various Akhadas, and the saints of these akhadas take a holy dip in a serial order set by tradition. Some of the prominent akhadas are – Shri Niranjani, Shri Nirvani, Shri Udaseen Panchayati, Shri NIrmal Panchayati, Shri Nathpanthi, Shri Vaishnav Vairagi, Shri Panchagni, Shri Atal, Shri Anand etc. During this bathing festival, the leader (mahant or goswami) of the sect bathes first and then the followers of the concerned sect. At the Kumbh at Nasik, Haridwar, etc., Niranjani has a priority and its goswami has the right to the first bath.

This festival is a symbol of perpetuity and liveliness of India’s culture. It involves participation from people with diverse linguistic backgrounds from all corners of the nation with their respective customs and traditions, food habits, lifestyles, and local cultures. These multiple & diverse cultures demonstrate the richness & unity of the Indian culture. They also present an opportunity to understand the views of intellectuals from different philosophical and devotional backgrounds through which an ordinary Indian not only spiritually seeks the path to salvation but also takes pride in his culture in the mortal world.
Celebrations
Kumbh is held at an interval of 12 years on the basis of astrological calculations and lasts for a month. The astrological positions of the different Kumbh festivals are as follows:

• Prayag Kumbh: when Jupiter is in Aries and Sun & Moon are in Capricorn

• Haridwar Kumbh: when Jupiter is in Aquarius and Sun is in Aries

• Ujjain Kumbh: when Jupiter is in Leo and Sun is in Aries.

• Nasik Kumbh: when Jupiter and Sun are in Leo together. This event is called Sinhasth; hence, the Nasik Kumbh is also called SinhasthKumbh.


 The significance of the Kumbh bath finds a number of mentions in the puranas. It is stated as the best among pilgrimages and the greatest among festivals.
 The Skand purana states:"
Tanyave yaha pumaan yoge sodmritvaya kalpaney,
Deva namanni tatra sthaan yatha rada dhanadhikam."

 which means he who takes a bath at the Kumbh festival is filled with immortality. The Gods bow down to him who has a bath at the Kumbh festival just as a poor respectfully bows to the rich.
The Origin Of Kumbh 

Kumbh festival is India’s most ancient festival of bathing whose references are found in Vedic literature also. These scriptures credit the creation of the Kumbh to God himself.

"Chaturah kumbhanshch turdya dadaami" (Atharvaved – statement by God)According to the Skand Purana, the reason for the celebration of Kumbh is the story of Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean): Durvasa, a sage, was once furious at the Gods and cursed them to be weak and powerless. As a result, they started losing the battle against the demons. Thus, they went to the creator of the universe, Lord Vishnu to seek help. Lord Vishnu suggested that they churn the ocean with the help of the demons. The churning will produce amrit (nectar) whose consumption will not only restore the lost powers to the Gods but also make them immortal.

 On Vishnu’s advice, the Gods & the demons collaborated to churn the ocean. They used Mandarachal Mountain as the churning stick and Vasuki, the king of snakes, as the rope. Lord Vishnu himself took part in the process in the form of a tortoise, providing support to the churning stick. This churning released 14 jewels, including Dhanvantari himself, carrying the pot of nectar.

The sight of the amrit kumbh (pot of nectar) resulted in a fresh battle between the Gods & the demons. During the war, Jayant, the son of Indra, escaped with the pot and was followed by the demons in pursuit. This battle lasted for 12 days, which is equivalent to the 12 years on earth. During this period, Jayant is said to have placed the pot at 12 different places of which 8 are supposed to be in Devlok (land of Gods) while the other 4 are on earth. The 4 places on earth are Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik.
 Prithivyam kumbhyogasya chaturdya bhed uchyate
,Vishnudware, tirthraje vantyam Godavari tatey.   - Skand Purana

During this struggle, various Gods protected the pot of nectar. Chandrama (Moon) protected the nectar from spilling; Surya (Sun) prevented the breaking of the pot, Brihaspati (Jupiter) from being stolen by the demons, while Shani (Saturn) protected it out if fear of Indra. Therefore, the star sign in which these planets come together in a certain year, the Kumbh festival pertaining to that sign is celebrated during that year.

With the demons getting stronger during the battle, Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Mohini, took possession of the pot and served the nectar to the Gods.

The credit to the spread of the current version of Kumbh festival goes to Aadi Shankaracharya who brought a nationwide identity and fame to this sacred and religious event. He utilized this opportunity to not only protect the Hindu religion and culture from Jainism & Buddhism but also organize and unite the Hindu culture. These festivals can be said to be completely successful in meeting this objective. 
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