By far the most spectacular of all the events, the Kumbh Mela
is a religious festival that occurs once every 12 years, and
is celebrated in four major pilgrim centres around the country.
In Maharastra, the festival is held in Trimbakeshwar, Nashik.
The Nashik Kumbh Mela is generally acknowledged to be the most
sacred of all the festivals.
Why every 12 years?
Amrut had to be saved from Danavas. So Gods had
to hide it at different places - Swargalok, Mrutyulok and Patallok.
Gods were on Mrutyulok (earth) for twelve days. Gods twelve days
are equal to 12 years for Mrutyulok . Thus Gods were on earth
for 12 years with Amrut. Hence every 12 years Kumbha Mela is celebrated
at the four places, where a few drops of Amrut had fallen.
Where and when?
Kumbha Mela is a mammoth fair where saints and
devotees gather. Kumbha Mela is celebrated at the aforesaid four
places depending on the positions of planets and stars.
Jupiter (Guru) and Sun are in zodiac signLeo(Simha Rashi) it is
celebrated in Trimbakeshwar, Nashik.
When Sun is in zodiac sign Aries (Mesha Rashi) it is celebrated
When Jupiter is in zodiac sign Taurus (Vrishabha Rashi ) and Sun
is in zodiac sign Capricorn (Makar Rashi) Kumbha Mela is celebrated
When Guru and Sun are in zodiac sign scorpio (Vrishchik Rashi)
the Mela is celebrated at Ujjain.
Recognizing the importance of the Sinhastha Kumbha Mela Shri Shankaracharya
appealed the disciples of his Vaidik Dharma to assemble at the
time of Sinhastha Kumbha Mela. Following his appeal, till now
devotees, pilgrims, and people of various sects and religions
gather together for Kumbha Mela.
In Kruta Yuga, Durwas Rishi saw Indra - the King
of Gods - sitting on elephant Airawat. Durwas was pleased to see
Indra and presented him a chain. However Indra did not accept
the present . It fell down and was trodden by elephant Airawat.
Durwas Rishi got upset due to this and cursed Indra.
As an effect of the curse, all Gods lost their powers and had
to often lose a battle against Danavas (Demons). So all Gods including
Brahmadeva surrendered themselves to God Vishnu to get back their
power. Vishnu suggested them to approach Danavas and persuade
them to perform Samudra Manthana (churning of the sea). He said
Samudra Manthana will bring out Amruta , which will bring back
your power and you will not be efeated by Danavas. So Samudra
Manthana was carried out.
One of the many precious things that arose from
the depths of the troubled waters was a pot of nectar (Amrit Kumbh).
Lord Vishnu, disguising himself as an enchantress ( Mohini), seized
the nectar from the demons. While fleeing from the evil ones,
Lord Vishnu passed the nectar on to his winged mount, Garuda.
The demons finally caught up with Garuda and in the ensuing struggle,
drops of the precious nectar fell on Allahabad, Nashik, Hardwar
and Ujjain. Since then, the Kumbh Mela has been held in all these
places, every 12 years.
Another story is that once all the Teerthas went
to Adinath Bhagwan Shankara . Following Bhagwan Shankara’s
order they had been to Mrutyuloka (earth) to save sinners on earth.
Teerthas absolved the sinners on the earth, but were themselves
saturated with others’ sins . They requested Bhagwan Shankara
to free themselves from sins. Shankara asked them to go and live
in solitude for one year at the bank of river Godavari. Shankara
promised the Teerthas that he himself, with all other Gods will
also stay with them . After taking bath in the sacred water of
Godavari, they will be free from the sins.
Hence during the Kumbha Mela a dip in Godavari
river has attained a great importance.
In Shiva Purana there is a story explaining the
importance of Sinhastha Kumbha Mela. Gautama Rishi got salvation
of his cow-killing sin from Lord Shankara after a long penance.
Then the river Ganges descended down on the earth. After some
time she wanted to go back to her home place. However the Rishis
and Gods gathered there and requested her to stay back on the
earth for the prosperity of the earth. She agreed to stay back
only after taking a promise from Lord Shankara that all the Rishis
present there and all Gods will stay with her. Then only she will
stay back. Gods and Rishis promised her that during the period,
when Jupiter and Sun will be in the zodiac sign Leo (Simha Rashi),
they will all stay on the earth.
In later years , it is said , acknowledging importance
of Kumbha Mela Lord Rama with his Guru Kashyap stayed and lived
for one year in Trimbakeshwar. During this period he performed
all the religious rites like yatra, shraddha etc near Kushavarta
are different dwelling places for different sects. They are called
“Akhada”. The names of these Akhadas are - Shree Niranjani
, Shree Junadatta (Bhairav),Shree Mahanirvani, Shree Atal, Shree
Avahana, Shree Anand, Shree Pancha Agni, Shree Nathpanthi Gorakhnath,
Shree Vaishnav Bairagi, Shree Udasini Panchayati Bada, Shree Udasini
Naya, Shree Nirmal Panchayati etc. They have been established
at different times and worship their own deity.
Leaders of the different sects have arrived at
a consensus to follow a specific sequence for taking bath. E.g.
In Haridwar Mela, Niranjani Gosawi will take bath first and then
Nirwani Gosawi will bathe. In Trimbakeshwar, first Niranjani Gosawi
will take bath and after they leave Kushawarta Teertha, Nirvani
Gosawi will take bath . After them the old Udasee sadhu followed
by new Udasee Sadhus will take bath.
The Nashik Kumbh Mela is a mammoth affair with
over three and a half million people attending it. Thousands of
Sadhus and holy men and millions of pilgrims immerse themselves
in the holy Ramkund and Kushavarta reservoirs. The peak festival
days are August 14 and 25 and September 8 and 20. During the Kumbha
Mela, Nashik City and Trimbakeshwar are in a fantastic festive
mood. The festive and religious mood makes people get away from
their daily chores and experience the spiritual ecstacy.